Housing officials increasingly abusing demolition power

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Abuse of power by housing and demolition officials has been on the increase this decade and is causing massive economic losses, an investigation has concluded in an official paper released to the Global Times Tuesday.

Official bribery took place in 28 of the Beijing's total 41 demolition cases this decade, and abuse of power - bullying - in five cases.

By studying 10 years of cases, the Shijingshan district procuratorate team had identified 10 common issues, spokeswoman Wang Shuolei said.

The most publicized case involved Shichahai housing administration center director Zhang Jichun, sentenced to death on September 18 last year for receiving 7.3 million yuan in bribes and paying a 300,000 yuan ($45,116.18) bribe himself.

Petitioning over demolitions had stayed stubbornly high over the last few years and was a consequence of corruption, investigators found.

Taking Chongwen district as an example, the number of petitioners had risen from 1,483 in 2005 to 4,371 in 2007.

Some 38 of the 41 cases involved corrupt housing or demolition officials. One third were cases of collective corruption, the biggest involving 16 officials.

Criminals could be found profiting at each and every stage of the demolition process: real estate developers, demolition companies and government departments.

Even demolition workers could grab a slice of the action by adding nonexistent square meters to their work assessments for extra compensation.

Many bribers turned out to be owners of illegally-built houses scheduled for demolition: They bribed officials to legalize their housing, rendering it eligible for compensation.

Corrupt officials harmed social stability, government credibility and economic development, the team concluded, causing 30 million yuan ($4.51 million) in direct economic losses and "countless" other losses.

The procuratorate paper itself fully named only one official and did not name any company leader or victim. It offered sparse details of the cases, punishments or sums involved in bribery.

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