- Video of Lei Zhengfu, 55, having sex with 18-year-old went viral on
- Encounter was sting by property developer hoping to blackmail him into favourable commercial decisions
- When confronted with clip, Lei asked another developer to pay 3m yuan ($500,000) in hush money
- Sex extortion scheme has ensnared at least 20 other party cadres
- Exposes shady intertwining of sex, money and power in Chinese hierarchy
A former regional Communist Party official implicated in a sex scandal that has transfixed China was sentenced today to 13 years in jail for taking more than 3.1 million yuan ($500,000) in bribes.
Lei Zhengfu, a portly, pop-eyed ex-secretary of a region in southwestern China’s Chongqing, was caught on video having sex with an 18-year-old mistress, with the clip ricocheting around China’s gossip-obsessed Internet when it surfaced last November.
The encounter turned out to be a sting operation by a property developer hoping to blackmail Lei, 55, into favorable commercial decisions, Chinese media reported.
Shamed: Lei Zhengfu, a former regional Communist Party official, at a court in Chongqing municipality where he was sentenced to 13 years in prison for taking more than $500,000 in bribes from a property developer
When blackmailed with the sex video, Lei asked another property developer who had benefited from his patronage to pay hush money of 3.1million yuan.
Lei was fired, then charged last month with corruption, which carries a maximum penalty of death.
Lei argued that the money was a loan, but prosecutors said the money – which was not fully repaid – amounted to a bribe.
His punishment also includes confiscation of assets of 300,000 yuan ($48,000).
Lei did not say whether he would appeal the verdict by the city’s No. 1 Intermediate Court, according to state media.
Lei’s case has riveted the public since video clips went viral of the portly, pop-eyed 55-year-old having sex with an 18-year-old mistress hired by property developers, allegedly in an elaborate extortion scheme.
As more lurid details emerged, the scandal has exposed the shady intertwining of sex, money and power.
The sex extortion scheme has ensnared at least 20 other party cadres, but Lei appears to have been singled out – partly because he has been especially vulnerable to public derision.
Lei’s receding hairline, pop eyes, bushy eyebrows and wide jowls provided a caricature for public corruption and moral degradation widely detested by the public.
Beijing Institute of Technology law professor Xu Xin said the sentence was more severe than those in earlier corruption cases involving similar amounts of bribes.
‘Maybe because of the case’s social impact, the court has chosen to be on the harsh end with its sentence,’ he said.
Prosecutors also said Lei took two other bribes – one of $10,000 and another of 100,000 yuan ($16,000) – in return for favors granted through his government position.
But it is Lei’s sex scandal and the scheme behind it that have captivated member of the Chinese public, who are disgusted by what they see as the moral degradation of those in power.
In a separate case, a district court on Friday afternoon sentenced Xiao Ye, the man convicted of masterminding the extortion scheme, to 10 years in prison.
The woman in the sex tape, Zhao Hongxia, was given a two-year sentence that was suspended for two years and could eventually be reduced.
The official People’s Court Daily said Xiao plans to make an appeal but Zhao does not.