The former Chinese Communist Party chief in the e-commerce hub of Hangzhou has been handed a suspended death sentence after he was found guilty of taking $25 million in bribes, state media said on Tuesday.
Tackling corruption has been a centrepiece of President Xi Jinping’s time in power, with more than 1.5 million officials affected according to government data.
Zhou Jiangyong was the former Communist Party secretary of Hangzhou, the hometown of internet giant Alibaba, and was handed a death sentence with a two-year suspension, state broadcaster CCTV said.
The broadcaster said a court found him guilty of taking more than 182 million yuan ($25 million) in bribes.
Suspended death sentences are usually reduced to life imprisonment in China if the accused is not found guilty of other crimes during the reprieve period.
Zhou was placed under investigation in 2021 and Britain’s the Financial Times reported the following year that Ant Group, Alibaba’s finance affiliate, had received a discount on a property purchase after investing in mobile payment companies owned by Zhou’s brother.
The court found on Tuesday that Zhou had taken advantage of various positions in Zhejiang province, to which Hangzhou belongs, and exchanged favours in construction and land acquisition for bribes.
Zhou “accepted a huge amount in bribes and caused particularly heavy losses to the interests of the country and the people, and deserves severe punishment according to law”, CCTV said.
The crackdown on corruption has been depicted as a much-needed cleansing of state and party organs but critics contend that it is also a vehicle for Xi to purge political rivals.
Alibaba founder Jack Ma has kept a low profile since late 2020 when a speech he made attacking Chinese regulators was followed by Beijing pulling the plug on a planned IPO by Ant Group.
A record fine of $2.75 billion was later imposed on the tech giant for alleged unfair business practices.
Ant Group said in January Ma no longer held controlling rights in the company, a move analysts speculated might have helped pull Ant and Alibaba out of the regulatory doghouse.