Many of those convicted in Chongqing at the height of Bo Xilai's anti-mafia campaigns were targeted for their wealth, according to a whistleblowing lawyer who worked on a high-profile case in the Chinese southwestern city in 2009.
Bo, who was removed as ruling Chinese Communist Party's Chongqing secretary on March 15, was famed for his "strike black, sing red" campaigns during his tenure in the city as pensioners gathered daily to sing Mao Zedong era anthems and his right-hand man and police chief Wang Lijun pursued high-profile convictions.
But behind the headline-catching arrests and the Cultural Revolution kitsch, Bo and Wang ran a terror campaign that, while it did net some bona fide criminal bosses, also targeted innocent businessmen with the aim of taking over their assets, lawyer Li Zhuang said in a recent interview with RFA's Mandarin service.
"Actually, Gong Gangmo wasn't a real mafia boss," said Li, a former defense attorney for Chongqing motorcycle mogul and accused triad chief Gong Gangmo.
"They pinned crimes committed by other people onto [him]...because he was very wealthy, with assets of several hundred million."
"Their main aim was to get their hands on his money, to confiscate his assets."
Li, who served 18 months in jail for his allegations of torture against Gong, said that all of the mafia trials contained the same element.
"You can see that there is a single sentence that stands out on all of the mafia trials ... 'Confiscation of the defendant's entire personal property.' The figures are always in the hundreds of millions or the billions," he said.
"This was the fundamental aim of the Chongqing anti-mafia campaigns," said Li, although he added that some of the mafia convictions were of genuine criminals.
Li is currently gathering evidence which he says give a consistent picture of a "red terror" campaign run by Bo and Wang, which routinely made use of torture to extract "confessions" from defendants.
"Under China's criminal code, it is forbidden to use sleep deprivation, or refusal of food and drink, as a means of forcing people to confess," Li said.
"With me, they made me sit on a chair for three days and three nights without sleep, and they limited the amount of food and water I could have. So, yes, it was a form of forced confession."
However, he alleges far more brutal treatment meted out by police interrogators to Gong.
"Their methods of extracting confessions were totally inhumane," Li said. "For example, they strung up Gong Gangmo from a height of more than two meters and beat him until he urinated on the floor, then ... they stripped him naked and beat him some more."
"They then forced him to sign a document that was supposed to be a record of a verbal interrogation."
"The anti-mafia campaigns were politically motivated, and if I had exposed them at that time, I would have blotted their leadership record and affected their public image, so of course they had to arrest me."
He agreed with a recent analysis by political sources in Beijing, which said Bo's case, which first came to light with the flight of Wang to the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, was "another kind" of corruption case when compared with the graft probes into former Beijing mayor Chen Xitong and former Shanghai mayor Chen Liangyu.
"I haven't even given them the evidence of how corrupt he was, or the bribes he took," Li said.
"What's special about Bo Xilai's case was his blatant abuse of his political position, his abuse of the state machinery to pursue his personal desires, and his use of the criminal justice system. That takes corruption to another level," he said.
Bo, once seen as a strong contender for a top job in China's upcoming leadership transition, was suspended from the highest echelons of the Party on April 10, after his former right-hand man Wang was taken into custody by Party investigators in February.
Hong Kong media reported on Monday that Beijing had dispatched a working group to the regional banking hub to investigate assets linked to Bo's family.
"The working group which has been investigating issues relating to Bo ... has already arrived in Hong Kong," the English-language South China Morning Post quoted an unnamed source as saying.
It said there was an allegedly "huge amount of assets held by the family in Hong Kong." The team would also probe the family's ties with China's powerful security chief, Zhou Yongkang, who was at the center of wild political coup rumors earlier this month.
The Post said that Bo's elder brother, Bo Xiyong, was thought to be a top director of Hong Kong-listed China Everbright International under the assumed name of Li Xueming. It said that Gu Wangjiang, sister of Bo's wife Gu Kailai, had held a number of director-level positions in Hong Kong.
Reported by An Pei for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.