A former transport official in southwest China's Yunnan Province, who fled to Singapore and was extradited back to China, was sentenced to life in prison on Wednesday for corruption.
Hu Xing, born in October 1958, former deputy director of Yunnan Provincial Transport Department, was also deprived of his political rights for life and all his personal property was confiscated, according to the sentence handed down at the Municipal Intermediate People's Court of Kunming, capital of Yunnan.
Hu was convicted of abusing his authority to take more than 40 million yuan (5.3 million U.S. dollars) in bribes, including an apartment valued at 247,980 yuan, according to the verdict.
"Hu perpetrated a serious economic crime, involving a huge amount of bribes, the largest ever in Yunnan, which aroused great public concern," said Cai Shunbin, a court spokesman.
In one case, Hu accepted 10 million HK dollars and five million yuan in bribes, according to the local disciplinary watchdog.
"The amount of bribes is huge... and he fled abroad using a fake passport, which was extremely socially disruptive," the court verdict said.
"He should be severely punished according to the law."
The judges took into consideration that Hu, on his own initiative, had confessed all his crimes during interrogation, most of which investigators had not known, and he had returned all his illegal earnings, Cai said, suggesting the sentence was lenient.
"The verdict is expected to help encourage other corrupt Chinese officials involved in economic crimes who had fled overseas to come back to surrender to police and face justice," he said, without explanation.
Earlier media reports quoted the provincial procuratorate as saying Hu also allegedly took advantage of his post to help relatives profit from his activities. He allegedly kept a mistress and had "illegitimate sexual relationships" with other women, but these charges were not mentioned in court.
Hu disappeared in January while local authorities were investigating a major economic crime, in which he was suspected of involvement. Hu was arrested in Singapore on Feb. 18.
Hu had served as deputy director of the Yunnan Provincial Transport Department since Nov. 2004, and previously as vice mayor of Kunming.
His responsibilities in the provincial government mainly concerned roads and transportation, and he was in charge of city planning and construction during his tenure as vice mayor.
Chinese police have traced more than 300 wanted officials who have allegedly fled abroad with illegal earnings since 1998, Wu Heping, spokesman of the Ministry of Public Security, has said.
Wu said police had strengthened their intelligence on the activities of fugitive suspects and cooperated with international organizations to trace the individuals and recover the stolen money.
Thirty-seven officials were arrested and returned to China in 2006.