Women often the downfall of corrupt officials

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 December, 2006, 12:00am

Corruption on the mainland may come in many shapes and sizes, but the country's most horrendously dishonest officials have much in common, the Procuratorial Daily reported yesterday.

Most of them have gone from rags to riches to jail, with some interesting twists in between; they often fall by the wayside because of women and they often end up still clueless about what is the rule of law, said Jiang Dezhi , a top anti-graft official.

Mr Jiang, Jilin province's anti-corruption bureau chief who has decades of experience in high-profile graft cases, said public officials rarely started out planning a life of corruption. Instead, most were upright young men working to lift themselves out of poverty.

It started with accepting favours, cutting ethical corners in taking advantage of the business process. Eventually, it became a full-scale system of seeking personal gain through public means.

Cheng Kejie , the most senior mainland official to be executed for corruption, was born poor and had not owned a pair of shoes before going to school, Mr Jiang said. The former vice-chairman of the National People's Congress later amassed an enormous fortune through his public position, siphoning off 41 million yuan.

Also, most of them, often middle-aged, were hoping to provide genuine public service for the public good. But the corruptible eventually found the temptation too strong to resist.

One of the strongest temptations was a woman's charm. Womanising was rampant among corrupt officials, Mr Jiang said. Behind every corrupt official, there stood either a greedy wife or an even greedier mistress - or several.

One case in point was Mu Suixin , the former mayor of Shenyang , who was given a suspended death sentence for embezzlement and taking bribes. But much of the 6.6 million yuan in dirty money that went his way was solicited by his wife, collecting funds in Shenyang as 'first lady'.

Cheng was probably the most famous of the skirt-chasers. His thirst for wealth was largely impelled by his mistress Li Ping, a former taxi driver who worked as an agent to find people willing to pay him bribes.

Searching for the underlying motivation of so many corrupt public officials, Mr Jiang found that part of the problem was the worship of officialdom entrenched in the Chinese culture for eons.

Today, anti-corruption efforts were an attempt to contain one of the most deeply embedded and common mindsets - something called guanxi, referring to a matrix of interpersonal relations used for personal gain.

Officially, guanxi was frowned on. Unofficially, however, it was a way of life at every level, Mr Jiang said.

'When things happen, the first thing that comes to mind is not the due process of law, but to look for someone's phone number while at the same time preparing one's own bank books.'