The public trial of the men at the centre of the Daxing Coal Mine tragedy that claimed the lives of more than 100 miners began this week.
Zeng Yungao, owner of the mine, is being tried at Xingning County People's Court in eastern Guangdong Province on charges of bribing government officials to illegally obtain a licence.
A total of 121 miners were killed when the mine, which should have been closed two years previously due to safety problems, became flooded.
Seventeen others will be tried alongside Zeng, most of whom were his subordinates.
Local prosecutors said Zeng offered bribes of 524,000 yuan (US$65,500) and 50,000 Hong Kong dollars (US$6,451) to Hu Jianchang, deputy director general of Guangdong Provincial Administration for Work Safety and other government officials over the past two years, enabling the mine to remain open.
Wu Dashen, a local lawyer, told China Daily that Zeng would be severely punished because he had committed serious crimes.
"Those who are neglecting safe production will be deterred if Zeng is seriously punished according to the law," he said.
Zeng escaped after the incident, and ordered his cronies to destroy the evidence. However, he surrendered himself to police several days later.
The court is due to rule soon, but an official said that due to the complex nature of the case more time is required.
Meanwhile, Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court opened a public hearing last Thursday into Hu Jianchang, the official who accepted the bribes, and 10 other officials. No verdict has been reached.
Last weekend, Guangdong authorities announced they had shut down all coal mines in the province.
Source: China Daily