The bribery scandal at the Shenzhen People's Intermediate Court has highlighted widespread corruption problems in the mainland's legal system, a source familiar with the situation said yesterday. Shenzhen Intermediate People's Court vice-president Pei Hongquan and four other senior judges were detained by Communist Party anti-graft investigators recently. They were said to have offered or asked for bribes in exchange for promotions or favourable verdicts. The case is believed to be the biggest judicial corruption in Shenzhen. It also came as a shock to many people as both Judge Pei and Zhang Tinghua - a head judge arrested together with him - were considered rising stars in Shenzhen's judicial circle. Judge Pei was often praised by local media for his reform efforts, and Judge Zhang, who was only a court assistant officer in 1999, had been promoted four times in the past seven years. 'Among all the judges, Zhang is the one who got the most complaints - from prosecutors, lawyers, businessmen and even fellow judges. Yet he was promoted four times in the last seven years. That really begs for some explanation,' the source said. Both Judge Pei and Judge Zhang had been in charge of handling bankruptcy applications - which are considered among the most 'lucrative' court cases. 'Bankruptcy cases involve a lot of money. Some cases could involve billions of yuan. They provide plenty of opportunities for [judges] to take bribes,' the source said. 'Many businessmen borrow heavily from banks and then transfer their assets to a secret account. They then come to the court to apply for bankruptcy. Once the judge grants their application, their loans become bad loans. 'Unlike in Hong Kong, where the bankrupted parties face many punitive restraints, those who declare bankruptcy on the mainland can simply start over again. Many people abuse the system and team up with the judges to cheat banks.' The source said the corruption problem had become a 'systemic disease' and involved almost every aspect of the legal system. 'It is not just judges or court staff. Many lawyers are also involved. Privately, they [the judges] refer to the cases they are handling as 'business'. This is really sickening,' the source said. 'And it is not just Shenzhen. That explains why the public has so much resentment [towards the legal system].' The Shenzhen case is just the latest highlighting the increasingly prevalent corruption problem among judges on the mainland. Only two months ago, the head of the Intermediate People's Court in Wuhan , Zhou Wenxuan , was detained for allegedly taking bribes.