Official faces trial over 11m yuan in kickbacks in Sichuan quake projects

University party boss accused of taking kickbacks worth nearly 11 million yuan for reconstruction work after 2008 disaster

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 April, 2013, 5:32am

The party boss of a leading university in Mianyang city - one of the worst-hit areas in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake - will stand trial within weeks on charges of taking bribes worth nearly 11 million yuan (HK$13.7 million), sources say, ahead of next month's fifth anniversary of the 8.0-magitude quake.

The Intermediate People's Court in Bazhong will soon hear the case of Mianyang Normal University party boss Su Zhixian, who allegedly asked for and accepted about 10.8 million yuan in the course of quake reconstruction and other projects, according to a disciplinary source in Sichuan.

A prosecution source in Chengdu , the capital of Sichuan, confirmed the decision and said Su, 56, had surrendered more than 20 million yuan after he was put under investigation by the top graft-busting agency in Sichuan in late September.

Once Su is prosecuted he will become the top official deposed in relation to corruption in rebuilding the disaster zone, after the quake hit the southwestern province on May 12, 2008, killing more than 87,000 people with hundreds of thousands injured.

The disciplinary source said Su was accused of taking kickbacks when projects were initially tendered for and when payments were settled after work finished, adding: "One contractor of a project complained that he had to pay 10,000 yuan for Su's single signature on each invoice. Altogether he paid Su 120,000 yuan for a dozen invoices."

More than 30 of Su's subordinates were questioned by the anti-graft body and 20 of them surrendered cash they had taken, the source said.

One of Su's colleagues said that Li Tiandong , the top official in charge of infrastructure construction on the campus, and Gong Yi , the official who was overseeing audit work at the university, were placed under investigation before Su.

Wang Daining , another top infrastructure official at the campus, was also investigated, said the university source, adding that all three officials were close allies of Su and wielded great power under him.

"Reflecting on the cause of Su's downfall, the university source said: "One of the rumours most widely circulated among top campus officials was that police in Beijing were investigating a woman they suspected of money laundering via a company registered in the capital.

"They then discovered she was the daughter of Su, and decided to investigate him."

Su exaggerated the scale of destruction of university facilities in the quake in order to claim an inflated reconstruction budget of 1.2 billion yuan.

The local education department, which initially approved 700 million yuan for the project, later offered only 400 million yuan.

Su became university president, in addition to being party secretary, when it was founded in 2003 following the merger of three institutions. He was deposed as president in 2006 but remained party chief.

Students staged protests in November 2011, saying the university promised them bachelor degree certificates but later offered only ordinary diplomas when they graduated.