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China's ex-security chief Zhou charged with corruption

Zhou Yongkang, China's former security boss, has been charged with corruption and leaking state secrets. He is the highest-level official to be prosecuted in decades.

Zhou's indictment, which

had been long expected,

was announced on Friday by China's procuratorate on its website.

"The defendant Zhou Yongkang... took advantage of his posts to seek gains for others and illegally took huge property and assets from others, abused his power, causing huge losses to public property and the interests of the State and the people," the indictment said.

It added that Zhou "intentionally leaked state secrets."

Zhou, a former member of the Politburo Standing Committee - the most powerful body in China - had been under investigation since 2013. He was expelled from the Communist Party and

arrested in December.

High-profile trial

The indictment makes him the highest-level official to be charged as part of

President Xi Jinping's much-vaunted anti-corruption drive.

It sets the stage for the most prominent trial in China since that of the Gang of Four, who included Mao Zedong's widow Jiang Qing, in 1981, in which the defendants were accused of persecuting political opponents during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.

As the Chinese courts are under the close supervision of the ruling Communist Party, a guilty verdict is almost certain, with the Party's mouthpiece, the People's Daily, already branding him a "traitor."

The investigation into Zhou also scrutinized his allies in government and the oil industry, where he held a high position as head of the China National Petroleum Corporation.

Among them is Jiang Jiemin, also a former head of the same organization.

Judging by former trials of prominent figures, Zhou's trial - despite official promises that it will be open in accordance with Chinese law - seems likely to be a relatively closed affair to conceal

political infighting at the highest level of the Party.

tj/sms (AFP, AP)

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