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China's Smiling Safety Official Gets 14 Years in Jail

Yang Dacai (C), a Chinese official branded "Brother Watch" because of his expensive taste in timepieces, stands in the courtroom, Sept. 5, 2013.
A Chinese official who ignited a national controversy when he was caught smiling at the scene of a deadly bus crash has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for corruption.

The official Xinhua news agency says a court in northwest China on Thursday found Yang Dacai "guilty of taking bribes and holding a large amount of property which he cannot account for." Yang, who did not contest the charges, was also fined about $8,000.

The former safety boss in Shanxi province gained notoriety after pictures surfaced of him grinning broadly while assessing a road accident last year that left 36 people dead.

Some Chinese Internet users also noticed that he was wearing a luxury watch in the photo and tracked down other pictures of him wearing timepieces that appeared to be beyond the means of his modest official salary.

Yang, who came to be known as "Brother Watch," was later fired from his provincial post by a Communist Party discipline committee, which chided him for his "inappropriate smiling behavior."

Despite losing his job and facing the prospect of years in jail, state television showed Yang grinning as the judge in the Xi'an Intermediate People's Court read him the verdict on Thursday.