01:32 - Source: CNN
China's ex-security chief gets life in prison for bribes

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Zhou Yongkang, China's former security chief, is sentenced to life in prison for taking bribes

Zhou, 72, also got seven years for abuse of power and four years for revealing state secrets

(CNN) —  

The highest-ranking Chinese Communist Party official ever to face corruption charges has been sentenced to life in prison, according to a statement Thursday from China’s Supreme People’s Court.

Zhou Yongkang, the country’s former security chief, received the sentence after being found guilty of taking bribes, China’s top court said, citing the Tianjin No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court in northeastern China.

Zhou, 72, also received seven years for abusing power and four years for deliberately revealing state secrets.

Footage from the court in Tianjin, not far from the Chinese capital, Beijing, showed Zhou looking healthy but now with white hair.

He said, “I have acknowledged the fact of my committed crimes, and the loss that was caused to the party’s mission. Hereby I am pleading guilty and I am regretful of it.”

As a member of the ruling Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee – China’s top decision-making body – Zhou was one of nine men who effectively ruled the country of more than 1.3 billion people. He retired in 2012.

At the height of his power, Zhou controlled police forces, spy agencies, court systems and prosecution offices across China – and wasn’t shy in deploying his vast assets to crush dissent and unrest in the name of “preserving social stability.”

But prosecutors said Zhou took advantage of his posts to seek benefits for others and illegally accepted large amounts of money during his long political career.

State media have painted an intricate web of officials, cronies and tycoons – some with alleged mafia connections – orbiting around Zhou before the crumbling of his power structure last summer.

He was expelled from the Communist Party and arrested in December before being formally charged in April.

Zhou and his family members were said to have accumulated enormous wealth in a blatant exchange between money and power.

He was also found to have affairs with multiple women and allegedly traded power for sex, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported last year.

Analysts have viewed his shocking downfall as a watershed moment in the secretive world of Chinese politics, now ruled by President Xi Jinping.

Xi has been spearheading a massive anti-corruption campaign, targeting both “tigers” and “flies” – high-ranking, and low-level, officials.

Who is Zhou Yongkang?

CNN’s Steven Jiang reported and wrote from Beijing, and CNN’s Jason Hanna wrote in Atlanta. CNN’s David McKenzie and Kevin Wang contributed to this report.