Chinese court set to hand down verdict in Bo case

DIDI TANG
FILE - In this Aug. 22, 2013 file photo released by the Jinan Intermediate People's Court, former Politburo member and Chongqing city party leader Bo Xilai, center, stands on trial at the court in eastern China's Shandong province. The Chinese court said Wednesday, Sept. 18 it will deliver a verdict Sunday, Sept. 22 against the disgraced politician on charges of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power in a case set in motion by his wife's murder of a British businessman. (AP Photo/Jinan Intermediate People's Court, File)

JINAN, China (AP) — A Chinese court was expected to hand down a guilty verdict Sunday for corruption charges against fallen politician Bo Xilai in one of the country's most lurid political scandals in decades.

The Jinan Intermediate People's Court was to announce the verdict against Bo, who was tried last month on charges of taking bribes, embezzlement and abuse of power. The former Politburo member and party chief of the megacity Chongqing vigorously denied any criminal wrongdoings during the trial, but Chinese courts are not independent and a guilty verdict is widely expected.

Bo was escorted into the court by marshals Sunday morning and stood to listen as the judge began reading the lengthy verdict, which reviewed the facts established in the trial.

Bo's downfall was set in motion by his wife's murder of a British businessman, followed by a defection of his top aide to a U.S. consulate with information about the murder case just ahead of a leadership transition.

Bo, once a rising political star, was removed from office in March and expelled from the party in September.

A conviction can carry a death sentence according to China's penal code, but political analysts think Bo is most likely to be spared the death penalty, and be given a sentence calibrated to sideline him politically with a jail term acceptable to all parties to preserve political stability.

Bo's career started to unravel in February 2012 when his top aide, police chief Wang Linjun — after having a fallout with Bo — fled to a U.S. consulate with information about the murder case and unsuccessfully sought political refuge in a severe breach of Communist Party rules.

Bo was removed from office and placed under investigation, which revealed other offenses such as corruption. Expelled from the Communist Party in September, Bo is the highest-ranking Chinese official to stand trial since former Shanghai party chief Chen Liangyu in 2008.