BEIJING (Reuters) - China's ruling Communist Party has expelled a former aide to retired security chief Zhou Yongkang and accused him of taking bribes, the government said on Thursday, the latest move against people close to Zhou as part of a graft probe.
Li Chongxi has already been sacked as head of an advisory body to the legislature in the southwestern province of Sichuan, and his expulsion from the party paves the way for his formal prosecution.
Li abused his power to seek benefits for others and accepted "a huge amount in bribes" via his relatives, the party's graft watchdog said in a statement.
"These acts have seriously violated party discipline and Li is suspected of committing crimes," the brief statement added.
His case has now been handed over to judicial authorities, it said.
In a separate statement, China's top prosecution body said that it had begun a bribery investigation into Li.
The statements provided no other details and it was not possible to reach Li for comment.
President Xi Jinping has launched a sweeping crackdown on corruption since taking power, warning that the problem is a threat to the Communist Party's very survival and vowing to go after powerful "tigers" as well as lowly "flies".
Zhou, whose own graft investigation was announced in July, was party boss of Sichuan from 1999-2002, and it became one of his powerbases.
According to his official biography, Li was promoted to a deputy provincial party boss and head of the province's anti-graft body during Zhou's tenure in Sichuan.
Several of Zhou's political allies have been taken into custody and questioned for corruption, including former Vice Minister of Public Security Li Dongsheng and Jiang Jiemin, the top regulator of state-owned enterprises for just five months until last September.
Zhou, one of China's most powerful politicians of the last decade, was a member of the Politburo Standing Committee - China's apex of power - and held the post of domestic security tsar until he retired in 2012.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Paul Tait)