A Chinese court has sentenced former mining tycoon Liu Han to death. He was found guilty of "organizing and leading a mafia-style group" in a case linking politicians to organized crime.
Liu, his brother and the rest of their 34-member gang were found guilty of murder and other crimes on Friday. The brothers, along with three other accomplices, were sentenced to death.
The Xianning Intermediate People's Court said in a posting on Sina Weibo, China's equivalent to Twitter, that the Liu brothers' gang had killed eight people and wounded many others over a nearly 20-year period. The members of the gang, based in the southwestern province of Sichuan, have been charged with 15 crimes, including assault, illegal detention, blackmail and operating casinos, in addition to murder.
The remaining 31 gang members were handed down sentences ranging from suspended death penalties - often commuted to life imprisonment - to three years in prison, according to state media.
Liu is the former chairman of the Sichuan-based energy conglomerate Sichuan Hanlong Group, which owns stakes in Australian and US mines.
Many of the Sichuan cases are linked to ex-security Tsar Zhou Yongkang, a former member of the Communist Party's Standing Committee, the country's ruling inner circle. He is now at the center of a wide-ranging corruption investigation and has not been seen in public for months.
Liu allegedly paid higher than market prices in contracts with Zhou in 2002 to "maintain political connections," the Beijing News reported in March.
Prosecutors said Liu's gang were involved in criminal activities as far back as 1993, during which time they amassed 40 billion yuan ($6.4 billion, 4.7 billion euros) in assets with businesses in finance, energy, real estate and mining, state news agency Xinhua reported.
In 2012, Liu was ranked 148 on Forbes magazine's list of wealthiest Chinese businesspeople, with an estimated fortune of $855 million.
The Hanlong Group is a diversified firm with interests in energy, mining, finance, real estate and securities. With 12,000 staff, it has assets of more than 20 billion yuan ($3.3 billion).
dr/tj (AFP, AP, dpa)