One-time Chinese political star Bo Xilai faces life imprisonment

One-time Chinese political star Bo Xilai was sentenced Sunday to life in prison in the country's most high-profile corruption trial in decades.

Bo, a former member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China, was accused of taking 21.79 million yuan (around $3.55 million) in bribes, embezzling 5 million yuan in public funds and abusing his power by interfering with the investigation into his wife's murder in November 2011 of British businessman Neil Heywood.

Bo, 64, had been tipped for membership of China's most powerful political body, the party's Politburo Standing Committee, ahead of the country's once-in-a-decade leadership transition last fall.

During the five-day trial last month at the Jinan Intermediate People's Court in eastern China's Shandong Province, Bo, who was the party chief of the southern major city of Chongqing until his downfall in March 2012, denied all the charges against him and recanted prior confessions of guilt.

The court, in an unprecedented display of openness, released some transcripts and photos of the trial proceedings on its Twitter-like Sina Weibo microblog account.

The scandal that has roiled the Communist Party came to light after Bo's estranged right hand-man and former Chongqing policy head Wang Lijun suddenly fled to the U.S. consulate in nearby Chengdu February 2012 and revelations that his wife had murdered the British businessman.

For the new leadership led by President Xi Jinping, who has promised to crack down on corrupt officials, Bo's case has been delicate to handle partly because his left-leaning social welfare policies won much popular support, amid widening income gaps in the country.

Bo's wife Gu Kailai was convicted last August and jailed with a suspended death sentence, while Wang was sentenced last September to 15 years in jail for abuse of power in connection with the businessman's murder and other crimes.