BEIJING: One of China's former top judges will be tried for allegedly taking bribes, in one of the nation's most publicised graft cases, the state press says.

Huang Songyou, the former deputy head of the Supreme People's Court, will go on trial by the first week of March for allegedly accepting up to 4 million yuan ($650,000).

It makes him the most senior judicial official to be tried since the establishment of new China in 1949.

Mr Huang, 52, was being accused of abusing power, enabling profit for others, taking bribes and living a ''corrupt and lavish'' life, the Chongqing Evening News said.

He allegedly accepted a huge bribe to arrange a favourable ruling in a real-estate case in the southern province of Guangdong in 2008 that benefited friends.

Yang Xiancai, a former chief judge at the Guangdong provincial high court, had also been linked to the case, along with 36 other officials in the Guangzhou intermediate court in Guangdong's provincial capital, the Southern Metropolitan Daily said.

Mr Huang, a native of Guangdong, once served as a judge on the provincial high court. As one of the country's best-educated judges, he was seen as a leading figure pushing China down the path toward a constitutional legal system when he was appointed deputy head of the nation's Supreme People's Court in late 2008.

The President, Hu Jintao, has repeatedly warned that corruption is one of the greatest threats to the legitimacy of Communist Party rule and has vowed to crack down on graft.

The judiciary is rife with corruption, judges being known to take bribes in a wide array of civil cases often linked to lucrative real estate and business deals. Top court officials in Beijing and Chongqing as well as Guangdong, Hubei and Liaoning provinces have recently been convicted for taking money from lawyers in exchange for favourable rulings.

Guo Shengqui, 58, the former deputy head of Beijing's western district court, was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve in late 2008 for taking bribes and kickbacks from real estate developers and lawyers.

Agence France-Presse