01/11/2010, 00.00
CHINA
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In 30 years 50 billion dollars in public funds embezzled and laundered abroad

Anti-graft officials say some 4,000 officials have absconded with public money and gone abroad with the help of criminal organisations. Beijing claims success against corruption but experts says it is politically staged.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – At least 4,000 officials have fled the mainland in the last 30 years with some US$ 50 billion in public funds. The officials used criminal gangs, mainly in the United States and Australia, to take out, launder and re-invest their ill-gotten gains in real estate as well as secure false identities, media reported.

As part of their anti-graft campaign, the authorities have investigated the outbound travel of more than 300 officials. One of the most sensational cases involved Yang Xianghong, a top Communist Party official in Wenzhou, who disappeared last year in France. After his disappearance, his wife was arrested and charged with trying to launder 20 million yuan (US$ 3 million),

For several years, Chinese authorities have pursued a zero-tolerance policy against corruption. Chinese media have been full of stories about great successes against dishonest officials. Yet, corruption does not seem to be decreasing.

In late December of last year, the Communist Party's top anti-graft watchdog announced it was investigating Zhang Chunjiang, vice-chairman and party secretary of China Mobile, for "serious disciplinary breach", a euphemism for corruption. Zhang has also held the rank of a deputy government minister.

He is suspected of falsifying corporate accounts to cover up losses of up to 20 billion yuan after he became the head of China Netcom in 2003. The firm, which was launched in the late 1990s in Shanghai to wholesale high-speed data networks, was controlled by Jiang Minheng, a son of then-president Jiang Zemin.

Meanwhile, the US Justice Department announced on New Year Eve that it had fined US-based UTStarcom US$ 3 million for bribing mainland officials.

Experts are sceptical about the effectiveness of China's anti-corruption drive because anti-graft officials tend to go after the officials who are out of favour with the faction in power as part of political manoeuvres in the run-up to the 18th party congress in 2012.

Other experts point out that to be successful the anti-corruption campaign must take into account complaints from ordinary citizens against dishonest officials, instead of censoring or dismissing them.

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