, BEIJING, Dec 6 – China’s former security chief Zhou Yongkang has been arrested and expelled from the Communist Party, state media said Saturday, paving the way for the prosecution of the highest-ranking Chinese figure in more than three decades.
Zhou – who retired from China’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) in 2012 – has been placed under a judicial probe over corruption offences, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Zhou “leaked the party’s and the country’s secrets,” Xinhua said, adding that the once-influential official was found to have “accepted a large amount of money and properties personally and through his family”.
The announcement makes Zhou the most senior member of the Communist Party to be investigated since the infamous Gang of Four – a faction that included the widow of founding leader Mao Zedong – were put on trial in 1980.
The dismissal of an official from the party clears the way for a criminal prosecution which usually leads to a guilty verdict at a trial, followed by a prison sentence.
Zhou became ensnared in President Xi Jinping’s much-publicised anti-corruption drive in July when he was put under investigation for “serious disciplinary violation”.
Xinhua said the decision to expel Zhou was made at a Politburo meeting on Friday, indicating that the move was approved by the party’s innermost circle of leaders, including Xi.
A key figure in China’s powerful petroleum industry, Zhou was also a close ally of Bo Xilai, the former high-flying politician who last year was sentenced to life in prison after a sensational corruption trial that exposed intrigue and lavish lifestyles within the party elite.