250 officials investigated in smuggling case
More than 250 officials in a Guangdong city are being investigated for their roles in China's biggest smuggling scandal, an official newspaper reported.
The Guangzhou-based Nanfang Daily said so far 80 officials in Zhanjiang had been sentenced, including high-ranking cadres.
A circular issued by the Provincial Disciplinary Inspection Commission said the trials of 49 officials were completed early this month.
This followed the sentencing of 31 senior cadres including the former Communist Party secretary of Zhanjiang, Chen Tongqing, who was given a life sentence, suspended for two years, in May. Six of the 31 were executed.
A spokesman for the Zhanjiang Government, Xie Ziqiang, played down the magnitude of the scandal yesterday. 'Many of the suspects are to be punished for violating minor party discipline, not criminal offences,' he said.
The paper said the scandal involved 331 people, of which 259 were government officials or party cadres.
For two years from 1996, the officials turned a blind eye or even took part in the smuggling of 15,670 vehicles, 1.1 million tonnes of steel and 1.2 million tonnes of diesel, worth a combined value of more than 11 billion yuan (HK$10.2 billion).