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Chinese military court gives ex-general suspended death sentence for bribery, other crimes

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BEIJING — A military court on Monday gave a suspended death sentence to a general convicted of bribery and other crimes, the highest-ranking military officer to be tried since China's president began cracking down on corruption in the country's vast army.

Gu Junshan, the People's Liberation Army's former head of logistics, was also found guilty of abuse of power, embezzlement, accepting bribes and misusing state funds and received a death sentence with a two-year reprieve, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Such suspended sentences are usually commuted to life in prison with good behavior.

Xinhua said he was also stripped of his rank of lieutenant general, had all his personal assets confiscated and has been deprived of his political rights for life, citing a court statement.

All the illicit funds and materials involved in the case will be confiscated, Xinhua said.

Gu was deputy head of the People's Liberation Army's General Logistics Department, a position offering him wide-ranging powers over procurement and contracts for the 2.3 million-member armed forces.

The investigation into his misdeeds kicked off a campaign against military corruption. In 2013, investigators hauled away four truckloads of alleged plunder, including gold statues and cases of high-end liquor from one of Gu's mansions.

According to previous media reports, Gu lined his pockets through huge kickbacks received over the transfer of military-owned land in premium locations throughout China.

China has for years sought to clean up corruption that has been seen as weakening the military's moral and fighting ability. The armed forces were ordered to give up most of their business interests more than a decade ago, but a culture of opacity, authoritarianism and bribery has continued to lead to abuses.

President Xi Jinping, who is also head of the armed forces, has made the crackdown on military corruption a centerpiece of his sweeping drive against graft in the government and ruling Communist Party.

Military corruption is believed to have thrived under Xi's predecessors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, whose civilian backgrounds never lent them much influence over the general staff. Xi, in contrast, is the son of one of the former comrades-in-arms of communist China's founder Mao Zedong and himself served briefly as a uniformed officer.

That seems to have given him the necessary clout to go after senior figures. Two were once vice chairmen of the powerful Central Military Commission: Guo Boxiong, who is facing charges of accepting bribes to grant promotions and other benefits; and Xu Caihou, who had been indicted on charges of taking bribes and brokering promotions prior to his death from cancer earlier this year.

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