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Former chairman of Chinas No. 2 oil company faces corruption charges
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    BEIJING — The former chairman of China’s No. 2 oil company, Sinopec Corp., has been expelled from the Communist Party and referred to prosecutors on charges of corruption and bribe taking, state media reported Friday.
    Chen Tonghai ‘‘abused his position to obtain improper benefits for his mistress and others and led a corrupt life,’’ state broadcaster CCTV reported on its main evening national news broadcast.
    ‘‘What he did seriously violated the party discipline and is suspected of making crimes. Therefore, he was dismissed from the party and his public post, and handed over to the judicial departments for criminal investigation,’’ the report said.
    It said Chen also took bribes, but gave no details.
    Chen resigned abruptly last June from his Sinopec post and as president of the company’s state-owned parent, and immediately disappeared from public view. Sinopec, whose stock price fell in the wake of Chen’s departure, said at the time only that Chen resigned for personal reasons.
    Sinopec, also known as China Petroleum & Chemical Co., is Asia’s biggest publicly listed oil refiner by capacity and China’s second-biggest oil company after China National Petroleum Corp.
    Hong Kong newspapers also reported last year that Chen’s case may have been a factor in the sudden resignation in August of Finance Minister Jin Renqing, also officially ‘‘for personal reasons.’’
    Jin has also dropped from view since his departure, which came just ahead of a Communist Party congress that renewed the mandate of President Hu Jintao.
    Hong Kong’s Mingpao newspaper on Thursday quoted unidentified sources in Beijing as saying that Jin had introduced Chen to a woman who became Chen’s mistress.
    China’s leaders routinely identify corruption as one of the main threats to Communist rule, and have sought to reduce opportunities for graft by banning officials and their families from businesses connected to their portfolios.
    Last week, the party’s corruption watchdog, the Central Commission for Inspection and Discipline, said it would crack down on insider trading and illegal profits from construction bids, land sales and trading of property rights among officials and their families.
    China’s chief justice announced last year that 29,966 officials were indicted for corruption in 2006, the latest year for which figures were available. The figure included several high-profile graft investigations, including one that toppled the Communist Party chief in Shanghai and former head of the food and drug administration.
    As head of the state-owned oil giant, Chen held an official position equivalent to a government minister.

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