Mafia kingpin dies in execution van

JUDGEMENT: The court had given the Chinese racketeer a reprieve when it found his confession had been forced, but later decided to punish him for a series of other crimes


Tue, Dec 23, 2003 - Page 5

Mafia kingpin Liu Yong was sentenced to death and executed yesterday, despite doubts over his confession, in a ruling that marked the first time the Supreme Court has circumvented China's two-trial criminal law system.

Immediately after the sentencing, Liu was sent to a crematorium where he was administered a lethal injection in a mobile execution van, officials said.

"Liu Yong was executed in an execution van through lethal injection," said an official surnamed Zhang at the crematorium at Jinzhou city, Liaoning province.

It took about 40 minutes from the time Liu arrived at the crematorium to the time he was pronounced dead, she said.

The State Supreme Court said in a statement after its verdict that Liu had been sentenced "for the crime of willfully causing harm."

"He should also be punished for a series of other crimes, and it was decided that the death sentence should be implemented," the decision, carried by Xinhua news agency, said.

Liu was originally sentenced to death in April last year, but during his appeal it was revealed that his confession had been extracted through torture and in August this year he was given a two-year reprieve by the Liaoning high court.

A reprieve on a death sentence often results in life imprisonment.

Liu's retrial, which began on Thursday, marks the first time in the history of the People's Republic of China that the Supreme Court has bypassed the two-trial criminal law system and issued a different ruling.

Evidence collected from forced confessions are inadmissible under Chinese law, but Monday's ruling suggested that the court felt there was enough additional evidence to warrant Liu's death in accordance with the first ruling.

Court transcripts obtained by the state-run China Central Television had no mention of torture or forced confession.

Liu was initially convicted on 32 charges including racketeering, extortion, premeditated assault and illegal possession of firearms in a case linked to a series of trials that effectively brought down the government of Shenyang city, the capital of Liaoning, in 2000.

He was accused of amassing 600 million yuan (US$72.5 million) in illegally gained assets.

Using the Jiayang Group as a business cover for his activities, Liu allegedly bought off over 500 government, judicial and police officials to run huge rackets in Shenyang real estate and tobacco markets.

In related cases, former Shen-yang mayor Mu Suixin was sentenced to death and given a two-year reprieve in 2001, and former vice mayor Ma Xiangdong was sentenced to death and executed in December 2000.

Scores of other officials and mafia figures were given capital punishment or sentenced to death with reprieves in related trials.

Liu was formerly a delegate to the Shenyang People's Congress.

The retrial came after massive public opinion decried the high court's reprieve and as the central government expressed eagerness to crack down harder on corruption.

At the time the August ruling was deemed just and fair when read out at Liu's earlier appeal, with judges citing a confession by police that Liu was brutally tortured while in custody.

"There are two main reasons for the verdict change, one is the evidence was not obtained carefully, and the other is that the evidence was flawed," Liu Liming, a judge at the Liaoning high court, told the Beijing Youth Daily in August.