China’s supreme court overturned the decade-old bribery and fraud conviction of a retail magnate on Thursday, a rare reversal amid a government drive to crack down on corporate misdeeds.
Zhang Wenzhong, the former chairman of retailer and supermarket operator Wumart, was prosecuted in northern Hebei province in 2007 and later sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined 500,000 yuan ($78,000).
Zhang petitioned the Supreme People’s Court in 2016 and was given a retrial last year. The top court ruled that he had not committed the crimes and found that the lower court had made “errors” in its judgement.
Acquittals are extremely rare in China, where prosecutors boast a 99 percent conviction rate.
The ruling also comes as businesspeople have come under heightened scrutiny from authorities who have moved aggressively to prevent heavily-indebted large private companies from collapsing and triggering a financial crisis.
On May 10, a court sentenced the former high-flying head of troubled Anbang Insurance Group, Wu Xiaohui, to 18 years in prison for defrauding the company of more than $10 billion.
Wu has lodged an appeal, according to the state-run Global Times newspaper, which cited his lawyer.