(dpa) - A Chinese court on Friday sentenced Chen Liangyu, the former Shanghai chief of the ruling Communist Party, to 18 years in prison for corruption after a trial that some observers saw as partly motivated by politics.
The Number Two Intermediate People's Court in the northern city of Tianjin announced the sentence after Chen was convicted of "taking bribes and abusing power" at a trial last month, state media said.
Chen, 61, was the highest-profile suspect in a huge corruption scandal that centred on Shanghai but also involved other cities and top government officials.
Chen, the most powerful politician in Shanghai before he was ousted, was accused of allowing the misuse of pension funds for investments into stocks, real-estate deals and other speculative projects.
Earlier media reports said at least 30 senior officials were implicated in misusing about 3.7 billion yuan (527 million dollars) pension funds.
"As the most senior official among those implicated in the far-reaching scandal, Chen's trial marked the beginning of closure for a deep scar of corruption that rocked China," the influential Caijing magazine said in a cover feature last week on Chen's trial.
Prosecutors charged Chen with accepting bribes of more than 2.39 million yuan, abuse of power and dereliction of duty, the magazine said.
But Chen's fall was seen by some as a political manoeuvre by President Hu Jintao to disband the so-called Shanghai clique of his predecessor Jiang Zemin.
Chen was detained in September 2006 before being expelled from the party and his government posts, which included membership in the party's elite politburo.
He was only the second politburo member ever to be tried for corruption by China's courts after the sentencing of former Beijing party chief Chen Xitong to 16 years in prison after his sacking in 1995.
Chen's trial was held in Tianjin to avoid possible favouritism by courts in Shanghai or Beijing.