A former high-ranking official in China's Communist Party has been sentenced to 18 years in prison in connection with a pension fund scandal.

A court in the northern city of Tianjin sentenced Chen Liangyu Friday on charges of taking bribes and abusing his power.

Chen was the chief party leader in the Chinese financial city of Shanghai when he was arrested in 2006 over revelations that more than $400 million in pension funds were improperly used in other state-owned projects.

He is also accused of accepting more than $300,000 in bribes.

More than a dozen senior party officials and businessmen have also received harsh sentences for their involvement in the scandal. Shanghai tycoon Zhang Rongkun received a 19-year prison sentence earlier this month for his role.

Chen was removed from his seat in China's ruling Politburo, the country's main decision-making body, when he was arrested.

He is the first Politburo member to be charged with corruption since 1995, when former Beijing Mayor Chen Xitong was forced out of office and sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Observers say the investigation is part of President Hu Jintao's efforts to cast aside Shanghai officials who were loyal supporters of former President Jiang Zemin.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.