Guidelines issued by the country’s top court and prosecutor’s office have expanded the definition of bribery and pushed up the requirements for the death penalty

(From Caixin Online)

By staff reporters Zhou Dongxu and Shan Yuxiao

A new set of legal guidelines for judges and prosecutors handling graft trials have revised the minimum threshold for cases that qualify for criminal prosecution and clarified where capital punishment can be used, a move legal experts say will reduce confusion in courts.

The document released by the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, the prosecutor’s office, on April 18 said that defendants found guilty of embezzling funds or accepting bribes worth more than 3 million yuan, or about US$ 460,000, will receive the death penalty. Previously, officials convicted of taking bribes worth 100,000 yuan or more could be sentenced to death.

The guidelines apply to graft trials involving government workers, including bureaucrats and employees of state-owned enterprises.

The benchmark for a case that qualifies for criminal prosecution has also been raised. A criminal case can be brought if bribe is 30,000 yuan or more, up from 5,000 yuan, the document shows.

The guidelines supplement revisions made to the Criminal Law in November, and replace sentencing criteria set out in 1997, which have long been criticized for being out of date.

Under the new rules, embezzling funds or receiving bribes worth 10,000 yuan to 1.5 million yuan is defined as a “relatively serious offence” and carries a prison sentence of three to 10 years. Those suspected of taking 1.5 million yuan to 3 million yuan in bribes are labeled “serious offenders” and will face a minimum jail term of ten years and this can go up to life imprisonment.

If defendants are convicted of “especially serious” offences with an “extremely vile impact,” such as stealing funds earmarked for disaster relief efforts, they may face the death penalty, the document show.

This is the first time in two decades that the sentencing criteria for graft cases have been revised. Several legal experts said the guidelines were more lenient than what they expected. Read more

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