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COMMENTARY

China is having a $20-plus billion corruption week—and it’s only Tuesday

By Heather Timmons in China

An astounding thing about China’s recent crackdown on government corruption is just how much corrupt officials, many who have been in power for decades, have allegedly stolen from state funds, misdirected into their pockets or otherwise wrongly appropriated.

Here’s a rundown of the headline-making corruption cases from this week alone:

  • Former security head and petroleum minister Zhou Yongkang has not been formally charged with any crimes, but the arrest and detention of practically all his associates and family may signal one is close at hand. Police have seized $14.5 billion in assets, said to include cars and real estate, from people close to him in connection with the investigation, reports said this week.
  • A trial against former Sichuan Hanlong Group chairman Liu Han started this week. He faces 17 charges including murder, financial crimes, and assault, according to to Xianning court’s microblog (link in Chinese) indictment. Prosecutors say he and 35 accomplices killed 9 people and accumulated nearly US$7 billion through crime.
  • Lieutenant General Gu Junshan, the deputy chief of logistics for the People’s Liberation Army, was charged this week with corruption, embezzlement, abuse of power and misuse of state funds. His amassed assets included gold bullion, cash, and real estate estimated at from several hundred million to several billion dollars, some of which was made public after police collected four truckloads of loot, including a gold statute of Mao Zedong, from his home.

Although current figures aren’t available, corrupt officials and businessmen took an estimated $123 billion out of China between the mid-1990s and 2011, according to central bank estimates, with much of it ending up in the United States. Just as they did after the trial of Bo Xilai, expect Chinese authorities to go after the real estate and other overseas assets of this latest crop of disgraced officials next.