Former chairman of luxury liquor firm Kweichow Moutai sentenced to life in prison for bribery

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The former chairman of China’s biggest liquor company, Kweichow Moutai, was sentenced on Thursday to life in prison for taking bribes, state news agency Xinhua reported.

Yuan Renguo was sentenced by the Intermediate People’s Court in Guiyang, in southern Guizhou province, for accepting cash and property worth more than 112.9 million yuan (US$17.48 million) to help others obtain Mao-tai baijiu dealerships when he was a senior figure at the company between 1994 and 2018, the report said.

Kweichow Moutai is best-known for Mao-tai baijiu, a fiery drink of choice for Communist Party founders, including Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. Its revolutionary history has made the spirit a symbol of wealth and power among political and business elites in China. Given its iconic status, the distribution rights for Moutai can cost as much as millions of yuan.

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The court said Yuan was given a “light” sentence since he had confessed to his crimes and volunteered information not known to the prosecutors during the investigation.

Yuan, 65, became chairman of Moutai in 2011 but quietly resigned in 2018. He was placed under investigation in May the following year and was expelled from the party the same month.

In an anti-corruption documentary aired on state television in January 2020 party investigators in Guizhou said Yuan’s wife and children had made more than 230 million yuan profit from illegally reselling Moutai since 2004.

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The documentary also said Yuan’s corruption case was related to the investigation of Wang Xiaoguang, former Guizhou vice-governor, and Wang Sanyun, a former party chief of neighbouring Gansu province.

After Yuan’s downfall, 180 people in the company faced disciplinary action, and in 2019 the disciplinary watchdog voided 514 dealers’ Moutai resale rights.

Wang Xiaoguang was jailed for 20 years and fined a record 174 million yuan for taking bribes, embezzling and insider trading in April. He had earned the nickname “the Mao-tai collector” for amassing thousands of bottles of Moutai and obtaining distribution rights for relatives who ran four retail shops in Guiyang. His wife reportedly poured away “hundreds” of expensive bottles of the spirit when she learned that anti-corruption investigators were about to search their home.

Wang Sanyun was jailed for 12 years and fined 4 million yuan for accepting more than 66 million yuan in bribes in April 2019.

China’s baijiu companies were hit hard by President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign that began in 2012, as the liquor was a popular gift for officials.

Separately, China’s anti-graft agency, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), on Wednesday said a former top law enforcement cadre in eastern Jiangsu province had been expelled from the party for “serious violations of the law and party discipline”, a euphemism for corruption.

Wang Like, 56, spent most of his political career in the police force in northeastern Liaoning province. He was transferred to Jiangsu in 2013 and promoted to party chief of the provincial Political and Legal Affairs Commission.

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The CCDI statement was harshly worded, saying the former policeman “has never really had any ideals or conviction, was never loyal to the party and had no political discipline”.

He was also accused of using bribes to secure promotions, resisting the party’s investigation and ignoring its rules of frugality.

The watchdog also accused Wang Like of colluding with criminal gangs and offering them protection.

This article Former chairman of luxury liquor firm Kweichow Moutai sentenced to life in prison for bribery first appeared on South China Morning Post

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