Former Chinese businessman Lai Changxing, extradited from Canada in 2011 after a legal battle of 12 years, was sentenced to life in prison for smuggling and corruption, China announced the judgement on Friday, while Beijing kept its words not to sentence him to death.
Lai Changxing, 53, was sentenced by a court in Xiamen, in Fujian province where he led a huge smuggling network before fleeing to Canada.
The dismantling of this network had resulted in one of the biggest corruption cases ever seen in communist China.
The sentence passed by the Intermediate People’s Court of Xiamen was the heaviest possible judgement, as China was committed to Canada not to sentence the death penalty, in order to obtain the extradition.
Mr. Lai, a native of Xiamen, came to Canada with his family in 1999 with a tourist visa, after fleeing China where he was accused of masterminding a smuggling network and corrupt many local officials.
Canada has consistently refused to grant Lai Changxing refugee status and was finally expelled him in July 2011 after years of legal twists.
Beijing had pledged not to sentence Lai to the death penalty if convicted, Canada prohibiting the return of prisoners to countries where they could be executed.
The repatriation of Lai Changxing had been a victory for Beijing and the end of a diplomatic headache for Ottawa.
Mr. Lai was sentenced Friday to life in prison and seizure of all his property for smuggling.
In addition, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for corruption and the seizure of 20 million yuan of assets. The penalties are cumulative.