Friday, 12 April 2013

Two Corrupt Fish to Fry

Liu Zhijun -- Corrupt senior official and alleged philanderer... who knew?
It's game over for two senior Chinese officials this week who were charged with taking bribes and abusing power.

One's a super big fish, the other not so big, but still -- what they amassed in their corrupt ways is mind boggling.

The small fish is the party boss of a university in Mianyang city, one of the areas badly hit in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

Mianyang Normal University party boss Su Zhixian was charged with taking bribes worth nearly 11 million RMB ($1.78 million) that he claimed was for quake reconstruction and other projects.

So far Su has surrendered 20 million RMB after he was put under investigation by the top anti-corruption agency in Sichuan in September.

When he goes on trial in the next few weeks, Su will be the first top official to be prosecuted in relation to corruption regarding reconstruction after the 8.0-magnitude Sichuan earthquake that hit on May 12, 2008. Over 87,000 people died, and hundreds of thousands injured.

Su is accused of taking kickbacks after payments for projects were made. "One contractor of a project complained that he had to pay 10,000 RMB for Su's signature on each invoice. Altogether he paid Su 120,000 RMB for a dozen invoices," said a source for the prosecution.

He also exaggerated the scale of destruction on the university campus to claim an inflated reconstruction budget of 1.2 billion RMB. The local education department initially approved 700 million RMB, but in the end only gave 400 million RMB.

Three of Su's allies were also arrested and investigated.

Not only did Su take lots of money, he apparently had his daughter help him launder money under a company registered in Beijing. Police were suspicious of this woman and later discovered her connection with Su and decided to investigate him.

So if you thought Su was a pretty big fish to fry, Liu Zhijun was much bigger.

He was the former railways minister who was very powerful in this post, and his legacy was constructing the high-speed trains that are now zooming around the country, though at lower speeds than earlier boasted because it was later found the rails are of substandard material.

In any event, Liu has been charged with taking bribes worth 60 million RMB linked to rail construction projects. He is expected to be handed the death penalty because under mainland law, that is the punishment for accepting bribes over 100,000 RMB.

He allegedly accepted 40 million RMB from Shanxi businesswoman Ding Shumiao in return for winning bids worth 3 billion RMB for the high-speed railway.

But what's even juicier is that she allegedly arranged for Liu to have sex with young women, particularly the stars from the popular TV series Dream of the Red Chamber, in which her firm had a stake.

Liu is already pleading for his life to his lawyers. "He wanted me to guarantee that he would escape a death penalty, which of course I could not," his lawyer Gao Zicheng said.

Liu's wife is also trying to defend her husband, saying he was a good man who came home for dinner every night.

"His wife said he seldom went out [for social engagements] at night, and, on the evening he was detained, he was at home rather than in some entertainment venue, as had been reported," another lawyer Qi Xiaohong said.

However, the hard-hitting magazine Caixin reported in February 2011 that Liu was discovered with two prostitutes in a five-star hotel in Nanjing.

Probably during office hours?

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