The chief of Guangzhou’s sewage disposal plant has been sentenced to nearly six years in jail for accepting bribes, after being hounded by allegations he played a key role in a disastrous water project for the 2010 Asian Games.
Zhang Hewang, 48, president of the Guangzhou Municipal Wastewater Treatment Plant, was sentenced to 69 months in prison by the Haizhu district court for accepting bribes worth 550,000 yuan (HK$690,000) and taking advantage of his position, the Southern Metropolis Daily reported.
Prosecutors claimed Zhang accepted bribes on multiple occasions from various contractors. In exchange, he gave them tips on government bids and offered to take care of it if the contractors faced difficulties with projects, the paper said.
However, the court dismissed the charges of malfeasance in office, citing the lack of evidence, the report said.
Zhang was believed to have played a part in the costly water-cleaning project for the Games, which Guangzhou hosted four years ago.
A year before the sporting event, the city in 2009 announced a series of ambitious projects to improve the water quality of its 31 rivers.
However, the public became furious at officials when, two years later, residents started to complain about dead fish surfacing in the water. It was also discovered that waste water was being directly discharged into the rivers.
A report by the Guangzhou Environmental Protection Bureau found last year that only one of 31 rivers passed quality testing.
More people pointed blame at the government and the local water disposal agencies, including the treatment plant where Zhang had served as president since 2005.
Zhang’s company was in charge of the water-cleaning project in South Lake, where more than 1 tonne of waste water each day was reportedly dumped from nearby residential compounds and an amusement park, the Daily said.
The government listed the South Lake project as a priority during the water clean-up, and operations were completed in October 2010, according to local media.
Guangzhou’s prosecutors have placed 440 environmental officers under investigation or saw them punished in the first eight months of last year. All of them came from government and public offices related to environmental protection.