4 ex-Chinese soccer officials sentenced for bribery
Published: Mar 26, 2024 11:17 AM

Former Chinese Football Association president Chen Xuyuan Photo: Xinhua

Former Chinese Football Association president Chen Xuyuan Photo: Xinhua

Four high-profile soccer officials, including former Chinese Football Association (CFA) chief Chen Xuyuan and vice chief Yu Hongchen, were sentenced to imprisonment on Tuesday for taking bribes, with their jail terms ranging from eight years to life imprisonment.

Chen, the former CFA chief, was sentenced to life imprisonment for accepting bribes totaling over 81 million yuan ($11.23 million), the Huangshi Intermediate People's Court in Central China's Hubei Province ruled on Tuesday. Additionally, Chen has been deprived of his political rights for life, and all his personal assets have been confiscated.

The court found that between 2010 and 2023, Chen abused his position as the president and chairperson of Shanghai International Port Group Co Ltd, as well as roles within the CFA, to provide assistance to various entities and individuals in project contracting, investment operations, and event arrangements.

In return, he illicitly received a sum equivalent to over 81 million yuan, with 4 million yuan remaining unclaimed.

Chen's actions were deemed to constitute a particularly serious case of bribery.

During his tenure at the CFA, he exploited his influence to benefit multiple soccer clubs and regional soccer associations, undermining fair competition in the industry and causing significant harm to the national soccer image. Moreover, he sought personal gains by facilitating promotions and adjustments for others, aggravating his offense.

However, mitigating factors were taken into account during the trial.

Chen's attempt to accept 4 million yuan was unsuccessful, and he cooperated with authorities by confessing to his crimes, revealing previously undisclosed instances of bribery, and exposing others' criminal activities.

Furthermore, Chen expressed genuine remorse, actively returning the ill-gotten gains, which have now been fully recovered.

Additionally, on Tuesday, former Chinese FA vice chief Yu Hongchen was sentenced to 13 years in prison for bribery by the Huangshi Intermediate People's Court. Yu's ill-gotten gains had totaled over 22.54 million yuan.

Former CFA Executive Deputy Secretary-General Chen Yongliang was sentenced to 14 years in prison and former general manager of the Chinese Super League (CSL) Limited Company Dong Zheng was sentenced to eight years behind bars.

Details about Dong's acceptance of bribes widely circulated on social media on Tuesday.

In March 2018, a senior executive from Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao FC, then defending champions of the CSL, gifted Dong a bank card worth 1 million yuan. Dong refused to accept the card, saying it is "inconvenient."

Subsequently, the club executive delivered 1 million yuan in cash to Dong's office, which he gladly accepted. To conceal the crime, Dong neither took the received funds home nor deposited them in the bank, instead, he entrusted them to another person for "safekeeping."

Theserulings are expected to send a strong message against corruption in sports governance and highlight China's commitment to upholding integrity in the soccer industry.

Coincidentally, on Tuesday, the Chinese national soccer team will take on Singapore in a 2026 FIFA World Cup Asian qualifier in Tianjin.