'Consistency needed' in corruption sentencing

By Liu Li (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-11-10 06:40

The Supreme People's Court is expected to issue specific punishments for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds, a top judicial official said.

Current laws do not give detailed stipulations for these three crimes, Jiang Xingchang, vice-president of the Supreme People's Court, said at the fifth national criminal trial working conference which ended on Wednesday.

According to the Criminal Law, those who embezzle or take bribes over 100,000 yuan (US$12,660) will be sentenced to imprisonment ranging from 10 years to life. If the case is "particularly serious," the criminals can be sentenced to death and their property will be confiscated.

Governmental officials that embezzle "huge amounts" of public funds and refuse to return will be sentenced to terms ranging from 10 years to life.

The Criminal Law does not specify what defines "particularly serious" and "huge amounts." And no details are given on penalty measurement.

As a result, crimes of the same type are often given different penalties at various courts and at different times.

Some corrupt officials have not been punished as heavily as they should be, some people have complained.

For example, over half of corrupt officials sentenced to death by courts across the country have been give a two-year reprieve, according to a report by the Procuratorial Daily.

But often this is changed to life imprisonment if the defendant does not commit any new crimes during the reprieve period. Finally, the criminal will only need to stay behind bars for 15-20 years before being set free.

Some analysts believe that the high rate of reprieve is a result of loose law enforcement.

Jiang required courts at various levels to strictly tighten use of the reprieve and the reduction of sentences when dealing with corruption, bribery and malfeasance.

"Criminals with the same offences should receive the same punishments. Rich and high-ranking officials should not get different treatment," the top judicial official stressed.

Jiang also emphasized strengthening the recovering of ill-gotten money and assets.

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