Foshan official denies huge embezzlement

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 May, 2012, 12:00am

A community party chief from Foshan has denied embezzlement and bribery charges in a case involving 100 million yuan (HK$123 million) in land-acquisition funds.

Zheng Niansheng, the disgraced former party boss from Foshan's Zumiao subdistrict, appeared in Gaoming District People's Court on Monday to face charges that he colluded with a businessman last May to misdirect money meant for land acquisition, home relocation and homeowner compensation, Guangzhou Daily said yesterday.

Zheng was also accused accepting bribes worth 25 million yuan from businessmen between 2005 and last year, including 4 million yuan from the unidentified man involved in the embezzlement scheme. The defendant gave 2 million yuan to a mistress in Chengdu so she could shop for expensive gifts, prosecutors said.

Zheng denied the charges, and the court did not immediately hand down a verdict. He was arrested along with Zumiao's deputy party chief and a local construction official in August on suspicion of corruption involving renovations to the subdistrict's business centre.

Chen Shufeng, the deputy party boss, was sacked after a party disciplinary investigation, but was spared prosecution. Zhang Dongkai, the construction official accused of taking 400,000 yuan in bribes, was taken to court last week in Foshan, The Southern Metropolis News reported.

The case is just one of several of high-profile graft scandals to emerge amid a years-long corruption crackdown in Guangdong. A subdistrict usually covers a small neighbourhood or urban zone.

Prosecutors told the court that Zheng loaned out 60 million yuan of the funds he embezzled to a travel agency, which paid him 3 million yuan in interest. He loaned the remaining 40 million yuan to the businessman who joined the scheme.

Prosecutors also accused Zheng of accepting 12 million in bribes from a businessman in 2005 while he was chief of a township in Shunde. He took a further 9 million yuan from a different businessman in February last year, they said.

Zheng also operated a jewellery store - a possible conflict of interest - the Guangzhou Daily said. With the funds Zheng gave her, the mistress bought jewellery, a flat and a car.

The mistress' mother testified that she was introduced to the official by her daughter in 2008. She said her daughter used the remaining money to invest in financial products.

Lin Haokun , the deputy chief of Guangdong's party disciplinary body, has blamed the string of corruption cases on a lack of effective anti-graft mechanisms and on a power structure that concentrates too much decision-making authority in the hands of a few party bosses.

Zheng's case has sparked a public outcry about why a low-ranking official could embezzle millions. A posting on Sina Weibo read: 'The amount of embezzlement is beyond many people's imaginations for their whole life, and the rank of this guy is only a deputy division head!'