Former CFA chief Chen Xuyuan pleads guilty in $11.3 million bribery case
Published: Jan 29, 2024 11:55 PM
Former Chinese Football Association president Chen Xuyuan  Photo: Xinhua

Former Chinese Football Association president Chen Xuyuan Photo: Xinhua

Former Chinese Football Association (CFA) chief Chen Xu­yuan pled guilty of accepting over 81 million yuan ($11.3 million) in bribes during his first trial on January 29, a high-profile case that shocked Chinese soccer fans.

The Intermediate People's Court of Huangshi in Central China's Hubei Province publicly conducted the first trial of Chen, the former deputy Party secretary and president of the CFA, on charges of corruption. 

The trial revealed a span of illicit activities from 2010 to 2023 that went beyond his tenure at the helm of Chinese soccer, delving into his earlier role as the president and chairman of Shanghai International Port Group (SIPG).

The Huangshi People's Procuratorate accused Chen of exploiting his positions, including serving as the CEO and chairman of the SIPG, as well as leading roles in the CFA, to provide undue assistance to various entities and individuals in matters such as project contracts, investment operations and event arrangements. 

According to a press release, Chen expressed remorse and admitted guilt in his final statement. 

The trial concluded with the court announcing a recess and sentencing scheduled for a later date.

It was only in 2013 that Chen entered the soccer domain by acquiring the Shanghai East Asia Football Club, the predecessor to Shanghai SIPG soccer club. This implies that his criminal conduct was not confined to his time as CFA president or limited to the soccer sector but extended into non-soccer-related domains.

Chen's trial marks another chapter in China's ongoing efforts to eradicate corruption in soccer, after a high-profile documentary earlier in January unveiled the initial wrongdoings of soccer officials. 

The anti-corruption campaign started in November 2022 when former Chinese national soccer team head coach Li Tie was put under investigation. A total of 14 high-profile soccer-related officials have since been put under probes.

"Chen's case is much more impactful considering the enormous figure he had taken in bribes," Wang Ke, a Chongqing-based sports commentator, told the Global Times.

"The public awaits a sentencing outcome that is likely to shape the perceptions of integrity and justice within soccer administration after this anti-graft storm."