HONG KONG — In China, authorities have charged a former senior military official with corruption. Prosecutors allege that by abusing his power within the military he amassed billions of dollars, speculated in real estate and gathered a huge collection of gold and luxury goods.
The secretive investigation that eventually took down People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Lieutenant General Gu Junshan lasted more than two years.
Along the way, Chinese news media offered fragmented and unofficial reports about what investigators were finding: billions of dollars in illicit transactions, golden statues and expensive liquor hidden in tunnels under his mansion.
Now, the case of Gu Junshan - once the deputy chief of the PLA general logistics department - has been transferred to a military court.
He is charged with corruption, embezzlement, misuse of state funds and abuse of power.
Although the probe against Gu started under former president Hu Jintao's leadership, analysts say his public indictment was a direct result of Xi Jinping's drive to root out corruption.
He Jiahong, a professor of law at Renmin University in Beijing, said that the high profile nature of the case resonates in China where the military forces inhabit a self governing and opaque kingdom - rarely the subject of scrutiny. “This just illustrates the willingness of the new leadership to fight corruption, to spare no effort and to fight it till the end,” He stated.
When state media confirmed Gu's indictment on Monday, they focused on the negative consequences of corruption within the military.
A commentary on the official People's Daily said that, “scum like Gu Junshan has shamed a body as glorious as the PLA.”
Earlier this year, Chinese magazine Caixin reported that Gu had “managed to profit from moving between the controlled and free markets.”
He would use his post to flip land owned by the military “for fat profit,” Caixin found.
The deals allegedly included prime real estate in Beijing, Shanghai as well as land in his hometown in Henan province.
Kerry Brown is a professor of Chinese studies at the University of Sidney. He said that Gu's offenses are a byproduct of China's unregulated economic growth which has favored those well connected to power.
“It could be very strange that such a large such a prominent group didn't also - like state owned enterprise, like people in politics and other areas of society - get involved in this cramming money where they can get it, because it's there and there is no moral or regulatory restraint on them,” Brown said.
The larger goal of the anti-graft campaign, analysts said, is to try changing how power is exercised in China and remove the most blatant cases of tutelage and abuses.
Gu is among the most senior officials formally targeted in Xi Jinping's crack down against corruption. Analysts including professor Brown believe the move against him shows that Xi is looking specifically to discipline the PLA, which he commands as head of the Communist Party's Central Military Commission.
“In a sense this kind of move on them is showing that they are not completely privileged. They are also part of the kind of nexus of power, the whole networks of power and therefore they need to be treated the same as more orthodox areas of the political terrain,” stated Brown.
Chinese media said the details of Gu's trial will not be made fully public because they may touch upon confidential military information.
Foreign media have alleged that Gu's testimony might be used in separate investigations against retired leaders, such Xu Caihou former vice chairman of the Central Military Commission and even Zhou Yongkang former head of China's security bureau.