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China to prosecute former spy catcher for graft

[BEIJING] China will prosecute one its former spy chiefs for corruption after accusing him of bribery and abusing his power to interfere in law enforcement activities, the ruling Communist Party said on Friday.

Ma Jian, once a vice-minister at China's Ministry of State Security, is the most senior security official to be investigated since former domestic security tsar Zhou Yongkang was ensnared in a graft scandal and jailed for life last year.

Ma, who was put under investigation in Jan 2015, has been expelled from the party and will be handed over to the legal authorities, said the party's graft watchdog the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, meaning he will be prosecuted.

An investigation found Ma abused his position to benefit family members' business interests, that he interfered in unspecified law enforcement activities and took bribes, the graft watchdog said in a short statement.

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It was not possible to reach Ma for comment and unclear if he has retained a lawyer. The courts are controlled by the party and will not challenge its accusations against him.

The powerful state security ministry is a KGB-like operation that spies on its citizens and foreigners domestically and internationally. It is one of the most opaque agencies in China and does not have a public website or spokesperson.

A source with ties to the leadership has previously told Reuters that Ma was director of the ministry's "No 8 bureau", which is responsible for counter-espionage activities on foreigners, mainly diplomats, businessmen and reporters.

Ma worked at the spy agency for more than 30 years and was closely tied to Ling Jihua, a one-time senior aide to former President Hu Jintao, according to Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.

Ling Jihua was jailed for life in July.