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China: Around The Nation

Chinese housing official jailed for illegally profiting from 19 government flats

Ma Weirong identified units to be rebuilt and put them under his own name, or those of his relatives, then sold them on at high prices, court finds

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 November, 2017, 4:35pm
UPDATED : Friday, 24 November, 2017, 4:42pm

A low-ranking housing official in eastern China has been jailed for corruption and abuse of power after his 20-year sentence was upheld by a court in Hangzhou.

Ma Weirong had appealed the sentence but was found guilty of illegally profiting from 19 public housing flats by the Hangzhou Intermediate People’s Court in July, news outlet Zhejiang Online reported on Tuesday.

The case came to light after the local graft watchdog, the Commission for Discipline Inspection of Hangzhou, published the details recently. Ma’s initial sentence was handed down by a lower court in October last year.

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Ma worked in the city’s housing regulation department for 30 years with a focus on government flats, the news outlet reported. The case exposed a lack of transparency in the system that had made it easy to manipulate ownership, according to the report.

He was in charge of removal and rebuilding of public housing in the 1990s, when China’s urbanisation drive was at its peak. The land the flats occupied was prime real estate in the centre of the city.

Ma simply identified flats that were to be rebuilt and put them under his own name, or those of his relatives, the court found. He then sold them on at high prices.

The report did not state how much money Ma had made from selling the flats.

“All he had to do to claim ownership was just fill in a form,” a local police officer involved in the case was quoted as saying.

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Ma was also found to have bribed his supervisor, Tan Zhaotu. Tan, former deputy director of the Gongshu district housing department, was jailed for 19 years in October last year.

“I have become a slave to housing and my own greed,” Ma told the court. “I am not a member of the Communist Party any more.”