Chinese GP High-Ranked Official Sentenced to Death

There seems to be a bad connection between Formula One and the Chinese investors lately. Ever since the Great Circle started to dazzle the eyes of the Chinese fans back in 2004, it has emerged that 2 high-ranked officials involved in the hosting of the Chinese Grand Prix are now either in jail, or sentenced to death.

And the latest was confirmed yesterday, as Chen Tonghai, the former chairman of Chinese oil giant Sinopec Corp has been sentenced to death, with a two-year reprieve. What that means is that, if the defense is to appeal within the next 10 days, the death sentence can turn into life in jail or even 20 years or less of jail time, depending on the judge.

If you're wondering what this has to do with Formula One, know that Sinopec Corp – also known as China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation – has been, until this year, title sponsor of the Chinese Grand Prix. Chen has been CEO of the aforementioned company from 1999 until 2007, when he was forced to step down because of the investigations related to corruption charges.

He was officially charged with corruption at the beginning of 2008 and was now found guilty of receiving 196 million yuan ($29 million) worth of bribes in exchange of "seeking illegal interests" in company operations, land transfers and contracts, as reported by the media based on the verdict from the Beijing No 2 Intermediate People's Court.

As we've mentioned earlier, this is the 2nd Chinese official involved – in some way or the other – in the hosting of the Formula One race to be convicted by the Chinese courts based on corruption charges. Yu Zhifei, none other than the general manager of the Shanghai International Circuit Management and Development Co Ltd was recently sentenced to 4 years in prison for embezzlement of funds (tracked back to the late 90s, when he was in charge of Chinese first division football club Shanghai Shenhua FC).
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