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China 'smiling official' Yang Dacai jailed for 14 years

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Yang pleaded guilty to corruption charges last weekYang pleaded guilty to corruption charges last week

A Chinese official who caused an outcry by grinning at the scene of a bus crash has been given a 14-year jail sentence for corruption.

A Xi'an court found Yang Dacai guilty of taking bribes and possessing "a huge amount of property of unclear origin", state-run news agency Xinhua said.

The bribes and illicit property would be confiscated by the state treasury, Xinhua added.

Several Chinese officials have been tried for corruption in recent months.

Yang pleaded guilty to corruption charges last week, saying he could not explain where wealth of 5m yuan ($817,000; £527,195) came from.

Yang was formerly head of a work safety body in Shaanxi province.

He attracted attention after photos showed him smiling at the scene of a bus crash which killed 36 people in August 2012.

Angry internet users then found several pictures of him wearing luxury watches. They argued that Yang could not have afforded the watches on his civil servant salary.

Following a probe, Yang was sacked for "serious wrongdoing" and then expelled from the Communist Party in February.

'Legal income'

Responding to criticism that he grinned at the scene of the crash, he said: "My heart was heavy when I reached the scene... Junior officials appeared nervous when they were updating me on the situation.

"I was trying to get them to relax a little, so maybe, in an unguarded moment, I got a little too relaxed myself."

He also said, before his trial, that he "used legal income" to buy a number of watches, saying that the most expensive one he owned was worth 35,000 yuan ($5,550, £3,420).

President Xi Jinping has vowed to crack down on bribery in China and launched a anti-corruption campaign as his first public initiative after taking office.

Several high-profile officials have been felled in recent months, including the former railways minister and a top economic planner.

Internet users are also increasingly pursuing those perceived as having done wrong through online exposes and campaigns.

But in recent weeks there have been signs that this has worried the authorities, with a number of journalists and bloggers arrested on charges including "rumour-mongering".


September 5 2013, 15:49

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