One of China’s richest men has been sentenced to death after being found guilty of "organising and leading mafia-style crime and murder” across the country.
Liu Han who heads the mining conglomerate Sichuan Hanlong Group was said to have been the man behind a network of gangs that had made “financial gains via illegal activities".
The 48-year-old screamed “I’ve been framed” after he was sentenced to death along with his brother, Liu Wei, and three other associates.
Another 31 people who were believed to be part of Liu Han’s extensive criminal network were handed punishments that ranged from suspended jail sentences to time in prison.
The courts said that over twenty years the two brothers had been the masterminds behind the deaths of nearly eight people and were involved in a number of other crimes and instances of corruption.
Following the decision the court posted on social media that: "Liu Han and Liu Wei had extremely malicious intentions, their acts were exceptionally atrocious, their social influences were extremely vile and their crimes and the consequences were extremely serious.
"They should be severely punished according to the law."
According to state media, Han’s sentencing is the culmination of an investigation that began in March 2003.
In July last year, Liu Han was formally arrested when guns and grenades owned by the Liu brothers were found in 10 provinces and cities across China.
Liu Han’s sentence also marks another step in the government’s wider crackdown on corruption linked to former Security Chief Zhou Yongkang.
Liu Han was from the Sichuan Province the place where Zhou used to be the Communist Party’s Secretary and was believed to be under Zhou’s sphere of influence.
So far two other of Zhou’s close associates have been arrested with six others currently under investigation.
Most notably, last year saw one of Zhou’s biggest political allies Bo Xilai jailed for life when it was found he had been involved in bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power while he served in the country’s Central Politburo – the Chinese central office of political power.
In December last year, Zhou’s son, Zhou Bin was formally arrested by authorities and placed in quasi-detention on the outskirts of Beijing.
There have been countless rumours that Zhou, who was China’s Public Security Minister in 2003 before stepping down in 2012, was being investigated for corruption by authorities, although none of these rumours have been officially confirmed.
If he was brought to trial and charged, he would be the highest-ranking political figure to be arrested on charges of corruption in China.
Beijing has presented Liu Han’s conviction as an example of their new commitment to ridding the country’s political and economic spheres from corruption.
However, critics believe the sentencing was harsh and merely a political move to further damage Zhou Yongkang.