2018-01-10 10:36:39

A Beijing court sentenced the wife of a corrupt environmental protection official to one year in prison for pocketing almost a million yuan in salaries for phantom jobs.

Zhai Qing, the wife of a former deputy director at an inspection office under the Ministry of Environmental Protection, was found guilty of accepting 960,000 yuan ($147,000) from three companies from 2012 to 2016, according to a verdict published Monday on legal database China Judgements Online. Zhai was on the payrolls with titles varying from consultant to chief financial officer without ever having worked at any of the companies.

Zhai’s husband, Wang Ganjiang, is currently under criminal investigation after being expelled from the Communist Party for corruption in 2016.

All three companies were in the environmental protection industry, offering products and services such as pollution monitoring systems. Witnesses testified that Wang had asked the companies to offer roles to Zhai in return for helping connect them with local environmental authorities. After her husband’s fall from power, Zhai turned herself in to the People’s Procuratorate of Beijing in November 2016, and the bribes she had received were confiscated.

Li Yongzhong, an anti-corruption scholar and the former vice president of the China Academy of Discipline Inspection and Supervision, told Sixth Tone that the case represented a more indirect form of graft that the country’s anti-corruption campaign must also target. “Although the monthly salary for the official’s wife was only 6,000 yuan, the total added up to over 900,000 yuan,” Li said. “This kind of bribery is elusive and dispersed, but the impact on the political climate is devastating.”

Last June, Wang’s case was listed by the Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) as a typical example of corruption. In Li’s opinion, the CCDI highlighted the case as a warning to anyone who might be contemplating taking advantage of the country’s environmental protection efforts.

“As well as clearing the political ecology, the central government has strengthened its efforts to clean up the environment, which has made environmental protection authorities a popular target of bribery,” said Li, who added that corruption is more commonly uncovered in government bodies where money and power are concentrated.

Besides high-profile cases like Zhai’s, the phenomenon of drawing a salary without working exists in many forms. Last August, Party newspaper People’s Daily reported that a government official in Hubei province had been running a restaurant for two years while on sick leave from his government job. And in 2015, television host He Jiong resigned from his university position after a professor accused him of no longer working there despite remaining on the payroll. A State Council crackdown on the phenomenon in 2014 disciplined around 162,000 government employees.

Hu Yijian, a professor at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, told People’s Daily in an interview that both parties should be penalized for such abuse of power. “We must rein in not only those who get paid without working, but also the organizations offering the payment,” he said.

Editor: Qian Jinghua.

(Header image: The blurred figure of a man passing by a sign reading ‘Serve the people’ in Nantong, Jiangsu province, Jan. 31, 2013. VCG)