Many Ministers Investigated for Graft since 2008
   2013-10-23 02:56:10    Xinhua      Web Editor: Luo Dan
A total of 32 ministerial-level officials were investigated for corruption from January 2008 to August of this year, according to a report from the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP) released Tuesday.

About 13,300 of the 198,781 people investigated in graft cases during the period were officials at county level and above, said Cao Jianming, procurator-general of the SPP, at the ongoing bi-monthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature.

About 167,000 people were prosecuted for embezzlement and bribery, and almost 150,000 of them were convicted during the period, including Bo Xilai, former secretary of the Chongqing Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and a former member of the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau, who was sentenced to life imprisonment.

In July, former railways minister Liu Zhijun was given a suspended death sentence for bribery and abuse of power.

A total of 65,629 civil servants have been investigated for taking bribes while 23,246 people were probed for offering them, Cao said. The number of people convicted for accepting bribes from 2008 to 2012 increased by 19.5 percent over the previous period, while the number of those convicted of offering bribes increased by 60.4 percent.

Of 151,000 graft cases in the past five years, about 4,800 involved bribes of at least 1 million yuan (161,000 U.S. dollars) or embezzlement of at least 10 million yuan, the report said.

While striking hard against all corruption, anti-corruption agencies have paid special attention to important and vulnerable sectors in the country's economic development, such as land use, property transactions, pharmaceutical sales, government purchases and public infrastructure projects, Cao said.

The agencies also looked into embezzlement and bribery related to food safety, education, social security, health care, poverty reduction and environmental protection, which are areas the public cares about most, he said.

PURSUIT OF FUGITIVES

Capturing runaway corrupt officials has become a key task in anti-graft work in recent years. Altogether 6,694 fugitives in graft cases at home or abroad have been caught since 2008. The SPP has a database shared with 14 government ministries, the police and customs agencies to pursue suspects on the run.

Xu Hanming, of Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, believes many of the fugitives are medium-level officials or executives in state-owned enterprises. It has become a trend for lower level officials to flee abroad.

"Against the backdrop of economic globalization, many state-owned enterprises have overseas branches, which are prone to money laundering and likely to be subjected to weak supervision, making them an vacuum in anti-graft fight," Xu said.

The most popular destinations of the fugitives include the United States, Canada, Australia and Singapore, all of whom recognize confiscation by Chinese courts. China has 106 judicial assistance treaties with 68 countries and regions, making it possible for prosecutors to seize or freeze illegal assets transferred abroad by suspects.

ENHANCED ANTI-GRAFT EFFORTS

The Chinese leadership considers corruption as one of the most pressing and serious problems that must be solved.

Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to go after both "tigers" and "flies," or high-ranking and low-level corrupt officials, as well as constrain political power within a "cage of regulations."

Anti-corruption agencies attached to the SPP and its local branches have worked closely with discipline inspection agencies of the CPC and government supervisory agencies, Cao said.

"We have clarified the duties of each agency and worked independently in line with laws but also forged into a joint anti-graft force with better communication and cooperation," he said.

Efforts were also made to increase tip-off channels and protect informants. The SPP opened a national tip-off hotline and an Internet platform that linked the SPP and its 1,161 local branches.

While working hard to fight corruption, anti-corruption agencies are regulating their procedures. Since January, anticorruption agencies have been required to hand over videotapes of interrogations to the courts, together with documentary evidence after the investigation is complete.

Although progress has been made in investigating corruption, there are a number of gaps in terms of efficiency and methodology, Cao said, with some local anticorruption agencies operating without enough manpower and resources.

"Some of our investigations rely too much on confession rather than evidence," he said. "There were cases where the legal rights of parties were seriously violated during investigations. A few investigators abused their power."

Anticorruption agencies also need more finance professionals and computer security experts to handle increasingly complicated cases, he said.
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