Bo Xilai scandal: Police chief Wang Lijun jailed for 15 years

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe BBC's John Sudworth reports as Wang Lijun is sentenced

The ex-police chief at the heart of China's biggest political scandal in years has been sentenced to 15 years in jail.

Wang Lijun was jailed for ''bending the law for selfish ends, defection, abuse of power and bribetaking", Xinhua said.

The policeman's flight in February to a US consulate led to the downfall of his ex-boss, top politician Bo Xilai.

Mr Bo's wife was convicted in August of killing UK national Neil Heywood. Wang was accused of helping in a cover-up.

Wang - the former chief of police in the city of Chongqing, where Bo Xilai was Communist Party leader - had faced up to 20 years in jail, but prosecutors called his co-operation "meritorious service".

The ''combined term'' of 15 years in prison included nine years for bribery, seven for bending the law, two for defection and two for abuse of power, state television reported.

''We decided to sentence him to 15 years altogether on all the four charges and deprive [him of] his political rights for one year," court spokesman Yang Yuquan told reporters.

''Wang Lijun said he wouldn't appeal after hearing the verdict," Mr Yang said.

The verdict was ''in accordance with the law'', he added, saying three of Wang's relatives were at the hearing.

Wang's lawyer, Wang Yuncai, also told the Associated Press that the sentence was ''considered normal'' under Chinese law.

The verdict comes as China prepares to select new leaders in coming weeks.

It is due to hold a party congress that will see major changes in the top echelons of leadership, although specific dates have not been announced.

'Bent the law'

Wang's trial took place last week in Chengdu. A court official said after the two-day hearing that he had not contested the charges.

The indictment against Wang said he knew that Gu Kailai - Mr Bo's wife - was a murder suspect.

Wang, however, ''bent the law'' by appointing Guo Weiguo - the deputy chief of Chongqing's Public Security Bureau and ''a close friend'' of both Wang and Gu - to oversee the case , a Xinhua report said.

Wang hid a recording of Gu's account of the killing from the police, the report added.

But conflict arose between Wang and Gu, after which Wang told investigators to ''re-collect, sort through and carefully keep the evidence'' from the case, the report said.

During his term in Chongqing Wang had also committed other offences, including illegally releasing four suspects in return for property and money totalling more than 3m yuan (US$476,000; £294,000), Xinhua said.

Gu Kailai was given a suspended death sentence for the crime. At a separate trial on 10 August, four senior police officers from Chongqing admitted covering up evidence linking her to the murder and were jailed for between five and 11 years.

Mr Bo has not been seen in public since the scandal erupted and is said to be under investigation by the Communist party's disciplinary officials. He has been removed from his official posts.

But it is not known whether the former party chief - who was tipped for promotion to the top ranks before his downfall - will face criminal charges himself.

At Wang's trial last week, Mr Bo was said to have reacted with anger when the police chief told him of his wife's involvement in the murder of Mr Heywood, "boxing the ears" of his former ally.

Mr Bo's populist brand of politics - an authoritarian crackdown on corruption coupled with the promotion of old communist values - is said to have made him enemies, says the BBC's John Sudworth.

They may be pushing for a criminal trial that removes him from the political landscape for a very long time, our correspondent says.