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Dec 22, 7:55 AM EST

China to investigate ex-President Hu's top aide

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BEIJING (AP) -- The top aide to former Chinese President Hu Jintao has been placed under investigation for disciplinary violations, the official Xinhua News Agency said Monday.

The evening announcement came two years after Ling Jihua fell out of political favor when a lurid scandal involving his alleged cover-up of his son's death in a speeding Ferrari disrupted his political ascent.

But Ling returned to the public eye this year when his two brothers came under investigation, triggering speculation that Ling too would be implicated under President Xi Jinping's widening anti-corruption campaign. The campaign is seen by many as a means to not only restore public confidence in the ruling Communist Party, but also to root out threats to Xi's political dominance.

Already, Xi has removed Bo Xilai, a former Politburo member, and Zhou Yongkang, a former member of the Politburo's powerful Standing Committee.

Ling had served as head of the party's general office, which gave him influence over key personnel arrangements, a position comparable in U.S. politics to the president's chief of staff.

He became a household name in 2012 when his son crashed a Ferrari in Beijing during what might have been sex games with two nude or half-dressed women, reports by Hong Kong media said months later, and Ling Jihua was accused of covering up the scandal.

In the lead-up to a generational handover in power in 2012, Ling had appeared destined for a seat in the party's Politburo, a council of top leaders, but instead was removed from the top leadership when he was named the head of the United Front Work Department.

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