Twelve people accused of evading 2.47 billion yuan (US$300 million) in taxes went on trial on Tuesday in Shenzhen in South China's Guangdong Province.
Liu Hao, deputy general manager of Shenzhen Huiwei Industry and Trade Company, was accused of bribing civil servants in customs authority and the departments of health and quarantine, animal and plant quarantine and commodity inspection between June 1996 and June 1998.
The other 11 accused worked for a foreign shipping agency based in Huizhou, also in Guangdong Province.
Investigations carried out by Shenzhen Intermediate People's Court show that Zhao Yucun, former head of Shenzhen customs, and a further 23 former civil servants had close connections with the Huiwei company. It is alleged that they once helped the company evade taxes and smuggle vegetable oil.
Four of the 23 former civil servants were tried and sentenced for their role in the affair, while the others are still being tried.
According to a customs source, the Huiwei company smuggled more than 827,000 tons of vegetable oil through a privileged bonded warehouse approved by Zhao, where imported goods needed no official inspection, and the firm evaded taxes of 2.47 billion yuan (US$300 million).
Zhao is accused of amassing 9 million yuan (US$1.1 million) in bribes along with his two daughters. His trial opened in Shenzhen in March.
He was previously expelled from the Communist Party of China and fired from his job, according to a notice issued by the Party's Central Discipline Inspection Commission.
According to the court indictment, Zhao received a total of US$30,000 and a Rolex watch worth US$8,200 from Yang Gaiqing, general manager of Huiwei.
(China Daily June 6, 2002)