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'Severe graft' hits building industry
Date:2010/5/21      View:1268
The country's construction sector has been hit with rampant corruption as the economic recovery fuels an overheating property market, the vice-minister of supervision has said.

From October last year to the end of April this year, 5,241 people, including officials and others with administrative ranks, have been punished by the Communist Party of China (CPC) or the government, Hao Mingjin, vice-minister of supervision, said on Thursday at a press conference.

The punishments were part of a crackdown, headed by Hao, that targeted offenses related to construction projects.

A total of 3,058 people have been charged or are awaiting indictment. Of these, dozens of city-level officials have been given punishments of up to suspended death sentences for taking huge bribes.

"The corruption cases in the construction sector usually involve relatively large amounts of money," Hao said.

Hao disclosed 20 typical cases involving regional officials, a top executive of State-owned enterprises, a university president and professionals, who had accepted bribes of up to 22 million yuan ($3.2 million). The lowest bribe amounted to 580,000 yuan, while the average bribe in all these cases was worth more than 5.5 million yuan.

"This (the amount) is much larger than the amount in the corruption cases found in other sectors," Hao said.

In one case, Zhou Xuewen, the former vice-chairman of the political advisory body in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, was found to have accepted a combined 22 million yuan of bribes in return for preferential treatment in transferring land use rights and other abuses of power. Zhou received a suspended death sentence in November 2009.

Faced with the serious situation, the central government launched in July 2009 a crackdown on corruption in the construction sector and decided to spend about two years to turn it around.

In early May, the CPC issued a special regulation to prevent and punish Party and government officials from abusing their power for personal benefit in construction projects. The supervision ministry will also unveil its rules on the issue in the near future, Hao said.

The revelation on mass corruption in the building sector comes as the country struggles to put surging property prices under control.

The crackdown will deal a "combo-blow" to the problem and precisely target all links prone to corruption in construction projects, said Fu Kui, director of the supervisory office at the ministry who also attended the press conference on Thursday. Similarly, the anti-graft campaign will target acts that help push up housing prices in the real estate market.

Currently, the number of tip-offs and complaints on such cases is rising, Fu said.

"The crackdown has taken effect," Fu said.
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