Chinese court officials have found Wang Lijun,a former police chief,guilty of four criminal charges after he fled to a US Consulate last February and told diplomats there that the wife of a senior politician had murdered a British businessman,according to state-run Xinhua,on Monday.
Wang,52,was found guilty of defection,abuse of power,taking bribes and bending the law for personal gain,the report said. The Peoples Intermediate Court in Chengdu,where the trial took place last week,sentenced Wang to 15 years in prison.
Verdicts in Chinese criminal cases,especially those with a political dimension,are often predetermined. Wangs sentence was relatively lenient; court officials had made the argument last week that mitigating factors should be taken into account when determining the verdict and punishment.
In February,Wang spent nearly 36 hours at the consulate in Chengdu,capital of Sichuan,and set off one of the biggest political scandals here in a generation. He told diplomats that Gu Kailai,the wife of Bo Xilai,a Communist Party leader,had poisoned the Briton,Neil Heywood,in November.
Bo was removed last March as party chief of the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing,where Wang had served as police chief,and was suspended from the Politburo a month later. Gu was convicted last month of murder and given a death sentence with a two-year suspension,which means she will probably wind up with a long prison term and not be put to death.
With Wangs trial over,Bo is the one remaining major figure yet to be tried. Speculation abounds over whether there will be an announcement or leaked statements concerning his fate before Chinas once-a-decade leadership transition,which is expected this fall. There has been speculation,too,about whether Bo,being investigated for serious disciplinary violations,will face criminal charges or suffer punitive measures within the party system.