China President Xi Jinping is two years into his unprecedented fight to eliminate the corruption that permeates the Communist Party in China. Since assuming office in early 2013, Xi has vowed to “hunt tigers and swat flies,” meaning he’ll target both high- and low-level officials.
In contrast to previous Chinese leaders, Xi has been adamant that no one is untouchable. Big targets like former security czar Zhou Yongkang and former military chief Xu Caihou, once thought untouchable by even top officials, were some of the first to fall in Xi’s crusade.
While Xi and the Party are notoriously tight-lipped about the inner workings of the Communist Party, they have been remarkably open about the illicit goods, cash, and properties found in the hands of the corrupt officials they have taken down.
Of course, Xi may have a hidden motive for being so transparent — to convince the public he’s winning the battle against corruption. Whatever the reason, he’s given Western observers an unprecedented view into the level of corruption of Chinese officials.
Here are a few of the more outrageous examples:
China’s then Public Security Minister Zhou Yongkang attends the opening ceremony of the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing in this October 15, 2007.
Zhou Yongkang once belonged to the all-powerful Politiburo Standing Committee and served as national police chief when he came under investigation in July 2014. His arrest in December could be a move to add legitimacy to Xi’s corruption campaign. It was previously taboo to investigate current or former members of the Politiburo.
NTD Television reported Zhou’s ill-gotten gains, which include assets totaling $US16.05 billion.
Here’s a taste of Zhou’s confiscated spoils:
- Cash stashed in Zhou’s residences totaling $US300.3 million dollars in US dollars, Euros, Yuan, British Poundnds, and Swiss Francs.
- 62 cars including military Jeeps and a tourist bus
- 55 paintings by famous painters with a market value between $US128 million to $US161 million
- Hundreds of foreign and domestic bank accounts belonging to Zhou and relatives totaling $US6.06 billion.
- Petroleum, aviation, wine, and financial securities with a total value of $US8.24 billion
- Foreign securities and bonds totaling $US27.3 million
- 326 properties all over China totaling $US1.76 billion in value
- 42,850 grams of gold, silver, and gold coins
General Xu Caihou
China’s Central Military Commission Vice Chairman General Xu Caihou listens to national anthems during a welcome ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, in this October 27, 2009 file photo.
General Xu, formerly the vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, confessed to taking bribes in October after the party’s seven-month investigation found he took huge bribes for promoting people in his command. He was expelled from the Communist Party and had his rank of general revoked.
When investigators came to Xu’s 21,500 square-foot Beijing mansion, the extent of Xu’s corruption became obvious. In the basement, investigators found more than one ton (in weight) of cash, as well as countless jade, emeralds, calligraphy, and paintings, according to Foreign Policy. It reportedly took more than 10 military trucks to cart off the loot.
Here’s how investigators found the cash at the house, according to The Financial Times:
The cash was neatly stacked in boxes, each with the name of the soldier who had paid the bribe in exchange for promotion up the chain of command. Many of the boxes, each containing millions of renminbi, had never been opened, said people familiar with the case.
Former mining tycoon Liu Han, who ranked 148th on Forbes’ list of richest Chinese business people in 2012, was sentenced to death last year for “organising and leading mafia-style crime and murder,” according to Xinhua, China’s official news agency.
Liu occupied the murky space in China between businessman and crime boss, heading up mining conglomerate Sichuan Hanlong Group while also leading a gang that committed murders, assaults, kidnappings, fraud, and contract rigging.
At the time Liu was detained, his accumulated assets totaled $US6.4 billion, including hundreds of cars such as Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, Ferraris, 20 guns, 677 bullets, 2,163 shotgun cartridges, and more than 100 knives, according to state-run news agency Xinhua. Liu wore a diamond-encrusted Franck Muller watch and often ordered bottles of French wine that cost more than $US12,000.
At his trial, his ex-wife, Yang Xue, relayed this story of how Liu dealt with government officials:
Liu Han would take me to dine with them, and offer them gifts such as gold or jade items worth hundreds of thousands or even millions of yuan … Sometimes he would deliberately lose when gambling, just to bribe them.
Liu Zhijun joined the Communist Party as a low-level bureaucrat at the national ministry of railways in the 1970s, eventually rising to become the minister of the department. This past July, a Beijing court sentenced him to death for bribery and abuse of power.
Liu accepted bribes totaling $US10.4 million from 1986 to 2011, according to Xinhua. In 2013, investigators seized 142.1 million in cash, undisclosed amounts of shares, 16 vehicles, 374 properties, and other valuables, according to The Guardian. In addition, investigators found the minister had 18 mistresses, including multiple actresses from a popular television show, nurses, and train stewards.
Lieutenant General Gu Junshan was arrested in early 2012 after his suspected involvement in a massive scheme that involved the sale of military appointments. The supposed bribery scheme involved nearly $US5 billion, roughly $US100 million of which Gu allegedly kept for himself.
When police raided Gu’s mansion in 2013, they found the stupendous spoils from that racket, including four military trucks worth of luxury items, a cellar of expensive wine, a gold hand basin, and a pure gold statue of Chairman Mao, according to The Telegraph.
Gu reportedly distributed the money from the racket to his underlings by filling Mercedes vehicles with $US3.8 million in gold bars and handing the recipient the keys.
The former vice governor of Anhui province in central China, Ni Fake, is one of Xi’s strangest targets. He’s hardly the big name that Xu or Zhou are, but the Chinese media has given him a lot of attention because of the form his loot has taken. Almost 80% of the Ni’s fortune was jade.
Ni’s obsession with jade was well-known, leading party investigators to warn him about his ostentatiousness nearly two years before the investigation. By most accounts, Ni did not listen. He always wore a jade necklace and carried a small flashlight and magnifying glass to examine new jade that might enter his collection, according to The New York Times.
The state-run China News website reported that, on the weekends, Ni would spread out his favourite jade pieces and look at each. Every other week, he waxed his jades and, on every work trip, he would visit the local jade market. His jade collection amounted to an estimated $US1.6 million in pendants, ornaments, and carved stones. The rest of Ni’s bribes came in the form of cash, paintings, or property.
Wei Pengyuan, deputy chief of the coal bureau at the National Energy Administration, has been charged with taking $US5.8 million in bribes from 2002 to 2012. When investigators searched his home, they found an astounding amount of cash: $US33 million or 200 million yuan.
It is estimated that the cash, which was likely in 100-yuan banknotes, would weigh more than 2.2 tons and climb 656 feet in the air if it was stacked.
Not every official nabbed with a ridiculous fortune was a “tiger.” Many, like Ma Chaoqun, were flies. Ma was a midlevel water supply official in Beidaihe, a resort town near Beijing favoured by top government officials.
Ma allegedly used his position to stack up a prodigious fortune: $US19.3 million in cash, 81 pounds of gold (worth about $US1.4 million), and 68 properties totaling $US163 million.
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