Caixin
Nov 10, 2016 06:21 PM
SOCIETY & CULTURE

Chinese Executive Receives Suspended Death Sentence over 2015 Tianjin Warehouse Blast

(Tianjin) — The head of a Chinese logistic company received a suspended death sentence on Wednesday for his involvement in a massive explosion at a chemical warehouse in Tianjin last year, which left 165 people dead and eight missing.

Yu Xuewei, chairman of Tianjin Dongjiang Port Rui Hai International Logistics Co., Ltd, was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve for his role in the accident.

He was found guilty of bribing government officials, obtaining certificates by illegal methods to store hazardous chemicals at Tianjin port, and providing fake environmental assessment papers, said the Tianjin High Court. This sentence is generally commuted to life imprisonment according to Chinese law.

Yu had been the deputy manager of the Tianjin branch of China's state-run Sinochem Group, according to an earlier Xinhua report.

The Tianjin No. 2 Intermediate People's Court and other local courts handed 49 suspects prison terms ranging from one year to life depending on their role in the accident. Yu's deputy and senior managers received prison sentences from 15 years to life.

The high court said officials at Tianjin's transport, port, customs, workplace safety supervision and maritime departments showed serious dereliction of duty in their jobs, with some taking bribes and issuing unlawful permits, which led to the disaster on August 12, 2015.

A total of 25 local government officials, including the head of Tianjin Municipal Transportation Commission Wu Dai, received three to seven years in prison for dereliction of duty, taking bribes and abuse of power.

It is rare for directors of government agencies to receive such severe sentences over industrial accidents, a renowned law expert Zhao Bingzhi told the official Xinhua News Agency. "This should sound a warning to other directors," he added.

In addition, 11 employees of a company that faked the assessment papers Rui Hai needed to maintain its certificates, were sentenced to up to four years in prison.

The devastating accident occurred on August 12, 2015, when two huge blasts erupted from a shipment of explosives in the Tianjin port hub. It destroyed 304 buildings, 12,428 cars and 7,533 containers, incurring economic losses of nearly 7 billion yuan ($1 billion), and also contaminated air, water and soil in the surrounding areas.

Contact reporter Song Shiqing (shiqingsong@caixin.com); editor Kerry Nelson (kerry@caixin.com)

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