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Luxury Car Drives Condemnation of Property Developers
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A recent report that a Beijing real estate tycoon had purchased a US$$2.2-million Rolls-Royce car has triggered online condemnation of profiteering property developers in China.

The custom-built stretch Rolls-Royce Phantom is the most expensive car the British automaker has ever made, said Ian Robertson, chairman and chief executive of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars when unveiling the Peninsula Hotel's 14 new Phantoms last week in Hong Kong.

The super-luxury car sold to the anonymous tycoon boasts a 6.7L V12 engine, an LCD entertainment system and three rows of seats.

The report has drawn hundreds of comments from netizens on Sina.com, China's biggest portal website, with the vast majority of them criticizing the extreme extravagance, according to the Beijing Evening News.

"Do some charitable work if you're rich," a netizen was quoted as saying. Another wondered whether the buyer had made excessive profits and evaded taxes as a real estate developer.

A cynical netizen described the buyer as a "devil that amasses great wealth by profiteering" saying the Rolls-Royce Phantom came from the hard earnings of "housing slaves." The "housing slave" is a new expression in China referring to people who use most of their salary to repay bank loans due to soaring housing prices and rising mortgage rates.

Property developers are among the richest business people in China. They're also one of the most criticized groups being widely believed to be at least partly responsible for the rampant corruption in the real estate sector and soaring housing prices in major cities.

They're often accused of pursuing outrageously high profits and building houses that low-income families can't afford.

A recent nationwide crackdown on false accounting has revealed that some real estate firms "cooked" their books. The 39 real estate firms surveyed had registered an average profit margin of 12.22 percent in 2005 but inspectors revealed the true average profit margin was 26.79 percent, according to the Ministry of Finance.

Fictitious transactions and fake contracts were brought to light revealing the firms to be flagrant tax evaders.

(Xinhua News Agency December 20, 2006)

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