Mar 08, 2016 06:12 PM

Shanxi Party Boss Dishes on Graft Scandals at NPC Press Conference

(Beijing) – Delegates to the country's legislature, the National People's Congress, meeting in the capital every year often use a session with the media to promote the economy and business opportunities back home.

But in a rare bit of openness, Wang Rulin, the Communist Party secretary of the northern province of Shanxi, spoke about how corruption has impeded the coal-rich province's economic development and governance.

Shanxi has been jolted by a slew of graft scandals implicating high-profile government officials since the party's general secretary, Xi Jinping, launched a major anti-corruption campaign in November 2012.

When Shanxi's NPC delegates held their session with the media on March 6, Wang spoke about three cases to illustrate the extent of corruption in the province.

In one case, he said that the president of a financial institution demanded debtors pay an extra 2 percent of the loans they got every year into a company she controlled as a "consultation fee."

Wang did not say who the executive was or how much she pocketed. A Shanxi official with knowledge of the matter told Caixin that the person is Shangguan Yongqing, a former party secretary and president of state-run Shanxi Guoxin Investment Group Co. Ltd.

This executive also forced 12 business associates pay 34.2 million yuan each so she could buy a private jet, Wang said.

The Shanxi official Caixin spoke to said the executive could do this because the business associates needed her approval for loan programs she oversaw.

Shangguan, 53, became president of Taiyuan-based Jinshang Bank in 2009 and took over as party secretary and president of Shanxi Guoxin Investment, a state-run company linked to the provincial government, in 2014.

She was detained in July last year, provincial graft busters said. Authorities have not provided many other details on her case.

Investigators found 70 cases of gold memorabilia coins at homes she owned, the China Business Journal newspaper reported.

Wang also said during the media session that a vice mayor in Shanxi took 644 million yuan in bribes, but did not provide other details.

Wang was talking about Zhang Zhongsheng, a former vice mayor of Luliang, a city in Shanxi's west, a mid-ranking official from the city said. Zhang, 63, was detained on suspicion of corruption in May 2014, and in January provincial prosecutors charged him with taking bribes.

Zhang was a vice mayor of Luliang from 2003 and 2013, overseeing the formerly booming coal industry, the official said. He got most of the bribe money from 11 companies, and in return helped them with matters such as getting business licenses.

At least two mine owners have been arrested, the official said.

Wang also offered shocking details about a third case of bribery.

He said that a businessman once went to an official to ask for help with a matter. The department head hesitated because he did not know the businessman, Wang said, citing official investigation.

The businessman then took a blank piece of paper from the official's desk and wrote: "How about if I give you 30 million?"

"The businessman then showed the note to the department head and swallowed the piece of paper in front of him," he said.

The official would up taking the bribe, Wang said.

An official from Shanxi's anti-corruption agency said Wang was referring to Li Jiangong, who served as head of the province's land resources department from June 2009 to December 2014.

Graft fighters announced they were probing Li over bribery and influence peddling in November 2014. His case has been turned over to the courts.

(Rewritten by Li Rongde)

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