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China gives suspended death sentence to former top banker

By Laura He, CNN

Hong Kong (CNN) — A Chinese court has handed a suspended death sentence to Tian Huiyu, an ex-president of China Merchants Bank and previously the right-hand man of the country’s former economic tsar, on charges including bribery and insider trading.

The sentence comes as Chinese leader Xi Jinping steps up his anti-corruption purge across the vast financial system, which is aimed at consolidating his control over the “lifeblood” of the economy.

Tian received a death sentence with a two-year reprieve, according to a verdict announced on Monday by the Intermediate People’s Court in Changde city, in central Hunan province. That means the sentence may be commuted to life imprisonment after two years if he does not commit any serious crimes during the two-year period.

Tian was also found guilty of three other charges: abusing his positions in state-owned enterprises, using undisclosed information for stock trading and leaking inside information.

The court said he had used his privileged access to information to make more than 290 million yuan ($41 million) in illegal gains from the stock market. He also leaked inside information about stocks to other people, which yielded more than 8 million yuan ($1.1 million) in illicit profits, it said.

The verdict said Tian had taken advantage of his roles to help individuals and organizations get loans, jobs or businesses. In return, he accepted bribes worth more than 210 million yuan ($30 million), it said.

A veteran banker, Tian had spent more than three decades working in some of China’s largest state-owned financial institutions, including China Construction Bank, the nation’s second largest bank, and China Cinda Asset Management, a major bad debt manager.

In the 1990s, Tian served as the secretary of Wang Qishan, China’s former economic tsar, who was then leading China Construction Bank, according to state-owned newspaper The Beijing News.

In 2013, Tian was promoted to head China Merchants Bank, serving as its president and its Communist Party boss.

In April 2022, he was removed from the top posts at the bank. Days later, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s anti-graft watchdog, announced he was under investigation for “serious violations of discipline and law.”

In October 2022, he was expelled from the party and arrested. He was charged four months later.

Last November, Tian pleaded guilty to the charges at a public court hearing in Changde, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

The Communist Party has stepped up its crackdown on the country’s state-owned financial system since last year. More than a dozen senior executives at the country’s most important financial institutions have been investigated or charged, including Li Xiaopeng, former chairman of China Everbright Group, and Liu Liange, former chairman of Bank of China.

Some prominent figures from the private sector have also been ensnared. Bao Fan, one of the country’s top tech dealmakers, went missing in February 2023. China Renaissance, the investment bank that he had founded and chaired, said he was cooperating with authorities in an investigation.

Bao resurfaced earlier this month, with China Renaissance announcing his resignation from the company due to “health” and family reasons.

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