Chinese official jailed for paying off sex tape blackmailers

Lei Zhengfu attempted to pay £330,000 in hush money to developers who ran a sex-tape extortion scheme
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A Chinese official who gained notoriety when he was caught in a sex tape scandal last year has been sentenced to 13 years in prison for bribery.

Lei Zhengfu, the former party chief of a metropolitan district in south-central China, was convicted of taking more than 3.1m yuan (£330,000) in bribes at a court in Chongqing today.

The case, which comes at a time when China’s new generation of leaders has vowed to crack down on systemic corruption, attracted international attention after footage of the 55-year-old having sex with a 25-year-old prostitute went viral online.

The leak was allegedly part of an elaborate plan to extort money from more than 20 Chinese officials, with women supposedly recruited by property developers to ensnare useful politicians.  

The court heard that when blackmailed with the footage, Lei asked another property developer whom he had supported before to pay hush money of 3 million yuan.

Prosecutors also said Lei took two other bribes — one of $10,000 (£6,600) and another of 100,000 yuan (£10,400) — in return for favors granted through his government position.

“The sums involved were massive, and the effects were malign,” said the verdict read out to Mr. Lei, according to China’s state-run news agency. “This should be sternly punished according to the law.”

Beijing Institute of Technology law professor Xu Xin said the punishment, which also includes the confiscation of Lei’s personal assets, was more severe than those in similar corruption cases.

“Maybe because of the case's social impact, the court has chosen to be on the harsh end with its sentence,” he said.

In a separate case, the man convicted of masterminding the property developer’s plan, businessman Xiao Ye, was today sentenced to 10 years in prison. The woman in the sex tape, Zhao Hongxia, was given a suspended two-year sentence.