In the latest example of Beijing’s long-running crackdown on corruption, a court in the company’s home province of Guizhou on Thursday sentenced Yuan Renguo for accepting bribes, including property, worth nearly 113 million Chinese yuan ($17.5 million).
In a statement, the court said that an investigation found he had used his various positions at Kweichow Moutai between 1994 and 2018 to help distributors secure deals for Moutai baijiu, the company’s hugely popular luxury spirit.
Moutai baijiu is a clear, potent spirit that’s been dubbed “firewater,” thanks to the fact that it’s 53% alcohol. The red-and-white bottles of its flagship product, “Feitian,” or “Flying Fairy,” are a staple at Chinese state banquets and business events. It was also known to be the favorite tipple of Mao Zedong, founder of Communist China.
The court said that Yuan had confessed to most of his crimes and was therefore “punished lightly,” adding that all his private property had been confiscated.
In 2013, the company’s sales slumped and its share price tumbled when President Xi Jinping embarked on a drive to stamp out extravagant spending among officials, including on expensive liquor.
— Shawn Deng, Laura He and Michelle Toh contributed reporting.