Ousted China Formula One boss in graft trial

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BEIJING, Sep 18 (Reuters) The former boss of China's Formula One and an ex-city official have gone on trial for graft, Chinese media said today, opening a likely series of corruption hearings focused on Shanghai's ousted Communist Party chief.

Yu Zhifei, the former general manager of Shanghai International Circuit Co. that hosts the country's high-profile Formula One Race, was accused of embezzling 1.05 million yuan (0,000), the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Property and land official Zhu Wenjin, who had offered property developers an ''expressway'' to project approvals, is being tried for accepting gifts, houses and cash worth over four million yuan, Caijing magazine said in an report on its Web site.

Yu and Zhu were among the 10 or so officials and businessmen felled in China's financial capital along with the city's Communist Party secretary, Chen Liangyu, who is also likely to face trial over a web of corruption centred on abuses of social security funds.

Sources and a Hong Kong newspaper controlled by the mainland have recently said that some of them could stand trial soon as a prelude to Chen's trial.

With his grip on Shanghai, Chen had bucked at the authority of President Hu Jintao, who is set to gain another five years as national Party chief and consolidate his authority at a congress opening in mid-October.

Beijing has stepped up a public fight against graft and abuse as the leadership seeks to impose its authority and win over citizens angry at a growing rich-poor gap and shaken by a string of high-profile official standards.

Ma Wen, the head of a new anti-graft bureau said in an interview with Xinhua agency on Tuesday that she aimed to address corruption across society, including in private firms and non-governmental organisations.

''A lack of a specialist anti-corruption organisation meant that the scale, professionalism and systems for this work had room for improvement,'' she said, although the government and party already have several watchdog bodies.

FLAMBOYANT FIGURE Toppled Shanghai party chief Chen had worked with Yu when the two were local officials in Shanghai's Huangpu district. Yu stood trial on Monday in the eastern city of Hefei and no verdict was announced, Xinhua said.

Yu, 54, is a flamboyant figure who moved from running a small manufacturing company to controlling the Shanghai Shenhua soccer club before he took the motor racing job. He brought Manchester United to Shanghai to play against his club in 1999.

Prosecutors claim he embezzled 800,000 yuan (6,400) from the Shenhua club in 1997 to help pay for a house.

He took another 250,000 yuan in 1999 and ''claimed the money was spent on public welfare advertisements during the year's Shanghai chrysanthemum show'', Xinhua said.

The 350 million dollars Shanghai track, which can hold 200,000 people, hosted China's first F1 Grand Prix in September 2004 and also hosts world championship motorcycling.

Property and land official Zhu Wenjin stood trial on Monday, Caijing said, citing a source who had been at the trial. Zhu had exploited his relationship with a top city official and been nicknamed ''Shanghai's top director'' because of its power, Caijing said.

He was detained in November last year after handing himself in, and has been under house arrest since, the report added.

REUTERS SR ND2042

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