A Chinese tycoon who called President Xi Jinping a clown and criticised his handling of the coronavirus outbreak was jailed for 18 years on Tuesday for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds.

Ren Zhiqiang — once among the ruling Communist Party’s inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Mr. Xi’s pandemic response.

His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon”.

Tuesday’s verdict said Mr. Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan ($7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million yuan, according to a statement from the Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court. It said the 69-year-old “voluntarily and truthfully confessed all his crimes”, and would not appeal the court’s decision.

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