A dozen women cadres have expanded the envelope for official corruption on the mainland, becoming entangled in a scandal that involved accepting prepaid cards for spa treatments and hairdressing.
Prosecutors in Beijing recently announced that they had investigated 12 female officials who had embezzled money to pay for cosmetic services or who had been bribed with prepaid cards for such services. In another case, a male official was arrested recently for using public funds to pay for his mistress' cosmetic treatments, the Procuratorial Daily reported.
The investigation comes as hopes are running high that the Communist Party's new leadership, headed by general secretary Xi Jinping, will take a tougher stand on combatting corruption.
Beijing prosecutors said the 13 officials who had been snared in the crackdown on "cosmetic corruption" were middle- and high-ranking officials in a variety of government departments and public institutions and that such corruption had become increasingly common and serious in the past few years.
Prosecutors said most of the officials being investigated were aged between 40 and 50. Some were so addicted to visiting beauty salons that they had clocked up more than 100 visits.
Bai Hong, former chairwoman of the trade union at Beijing's health bureau, was jailed for 15 years last December for embezzling 3.99 million yuan (HK$4.91 million) between 2006 and the start of last year. An upmarket, franchised women's gym centre in the capital was found to have issued fake invoices for conferences and training to Bai. She then presented the invoices to the bureau, using them to write off her cosmetic treatment expenses at the centre.
A mid-level official with the municipal finance bureau, Yang Ping, was arrested for asking people seeking favours to buy her prepaid cosmetic treatment cards worth 558,000 yuan between 2004 and last year.
"All these bribery cases have happened behind closed doors," a prosecutor was quoted as saying.
"Since those high-end beauty salons are only visited by rich people, there is a lack of supervision [from society].
"This kind of corruption is hidden compared with other corrupt activities, making many female cadres feel they would be unlikely to be caught."