Two officials have been removed from their posts and one more given a disciplinary warning in east China's Jiangxi Province for being implicated in or foreign holidays disguised as study tours earlier this year.
Jiangxi Provincial Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China (CPC) announced the punishments on Tuesday.
In accordance with a decision made by Xinyu City CPC Committee in Jiangxi, Liu Zhongping was ousted from the dual posts of Party secretary and Chief of the Office for Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs of Xinyu City.
Also ousted was Liu Qun, a deputy of Liu Zhongping's office, who was on an 11-member delegation to the United States and Canadain April. Liu Qun also received a serious warning within the Party.
Also punished was Xu Dongchun, chief of the administration for Xiannu (fairy maiden) Lake scenic area in Xinyu City, who was also on the trip. Xu was given a warning within the Party.
A spokesman of the CPC Jiangxi Provincial Commission for Discipline Inspection said the Liu's office fabricated the delegation's agenda to get approval by higher authorities, prolonged the delegation's trip against rules, and taking kickbacks while buying air tickets for officials.
Other members of the overseas study tour delegation were told to write self-examination papers and repay the bills for the sightseeing that were paid from public funds. Air tickets kickbacks illegally held by Liu's office were confiscated.
The spokesman Tuesday also pledged tightened supervision and auditing over funds used for overseas business trips in the future.
The scandal first surfaced late last month on the Internet as a netizen wrote an article under the pseudonym "Chimeiwangliang 2009", claiming officials in Xinyu, and Wenzhou, another coastal city in east China's Zhejiang Province, used public money to pay for overseas travel to Las Vegas, Niagara Falls and other resorts.
In the Internet article, the author said he or she found a bag containing documents and receipts from the official's trips. The bag was believed to be accidentally left by a travel agent on a subway in Shanghai.
According to photos of those documents, the Xinyu government paid at least 335,880 yuan (49,142 U.S. dollars) for 11 officials from the city's transport and education bureaux, among others, to go on a 14-day tour in April of this year.
The article said the purpose of the trip was to "observe human resources management" in Canada and the United States. However, officials only visited tourist attractions such as Stanley Park in Vancouver, Niagara Falls, the United National Headquarters in New York, the Statue of Liberty and Las Vegas casinos.
The article went on to say officials bought four invitation letters for international travel at a price of 11,520 yuan.