Alleged corruption investigated in Poyang

By Wang Huazhong (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-02-21 06:48
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 Alleged corruption investigated in Poyang

Ouyang Changqing (left), former finance chief of Poyang county, talks to a reporter on Feb 17. He was sacked after a low-ranking subordinate allegedly embezzled money equal to a quarter of the county government’s annual income. ZHOU MI / XINHUA

BEIJING - Authorities in Poyang county, Jiangxi province, are examining governmental bank accounts and local officials' family backgrounds in the wake of accusations that a low-ranking official embezzled money equal to a quarter of the local government's annual income.

Police said the official, Li Huabo, abused his position in the local finance bureau to siphon off 94 million yuan ($14 million) in public money since 2006.

Li and his family have been missing since the beginning of this month.

"To plug the holes, authorities will conduct a comprehensive examination of the bank accounts and funds of all organizations and agencies in the county," according to a newsletter sent by the Poyang government to China Daily on Sunday.

The document went on to say: "The county's Party discipline committee will thoroughly investigate all officials who are running private enterprises, or whose spouses or children are."

The anti-corruption measures came one day after People's Daily published an investigative story wondering how the leadership of the local finance bureau could remain ignorant of Li's alleged swindling for years.

The newspaper also noted the work of netizens who had revealed that the director of the finance bureau's son runs a company specializing in public housing projects.

Li's position puts him in the lowest administrative rank. He serves as the head of the economic construction office under the Poyang finance bureau. The office manages and transfers money from the bureau into public works, such as the construction of infrastructure and the disbursement of food subsidies, as well as into government organizations.

Police said Li and a local bank director, Xu Detang, fabricated a government seal and withdrew money from the finance bureau's bank account used to pay for economic construction.

Li's alleged crime wasn't reported until Feb 11, when a Party official within the bureau told police that Li had telephoned him that day to confess his crimes.

According to Cheng Sixi, former deputy Party chief of the finance bureau, Li's words during that conversation were: "I have run away to Canada. In past years, I have embezzled a lot from public funds."

Local media reported that Li described in a letter how he had obtained the money. The letter led police to detain the bank director and Zhang Qinghua, deputy head of Li's economic construction office.

But netizens raised doubts over why Li would bother to call and give evidence against himself just after he had decided to disappear with his wife and two daughters.

A spokesman for Poyang county's Party committee told China Daily on Sunday that the investigation team cannot confirm whether Li and his family have gone abroad.

"But we have traced the flow of part of the loss - some 31.6 million yuan - and have recovered 5.8 million yuan so far," the spokesman said. "The transfers show the money is not going anywhere overseas."

Both the bureau director, Ouyang Changqing, and deputy Party chief for the bureau, Cheng Sixi, were stripped of their posts, while Wu Zhimin, Party chief of the Rural Credit Cooperative of Jiangxi Province's Poyang branch, was suspended from duty.

China Daily

(China Daily 02/21/2011 page4)