Corruption blamed for Zhejiang's soaring housing prices

08:53, January 07, 2010      

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A total of 67 officials were investigated or prosecuted for corruption related to land transactions in Zhejiang province last year.

The 67 officials, which include 15 senior officials above the rank of bureau chief, were prosecuted or remained under investigation in the first 11 months of last year, a source close to the Zhejiang judiciary told China Daily.

Rampant corruption within land allocation departments has been widely attributed to escalating property prices in the province.

Real estate insiders said the cost of paying bribes to officials is often passed on to homebuyers.

"The greed of the accused government officials is definitely responsible for an unreasonable increase in property prices in Zhejiang," said Yin Lin, a senior researcher at the law institute of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

A source within Zhejiang procuratorate's anti-corruption bureau said corruption was found at all levels of land transactions, including allocation and planning, determination of the terms of sale, and auctioning of the land.

The source said that about 18 of the 61 cases investigated last year demonstrated a conflict of interest between officials and real estate companies.

More than half of the accused officials were alleged to have taken money from real estate companies.

Included in the 67 officials is a former land and resources bureau official accused of accepting 650,000 yuan (95,000 U.S. dollars) in bribes from property developers. She was also accused of helping real estate developers raise funds through a number of illegal channels.

Court records show that the amount of money involved in Zhejiang's land corruption cases is increasing.

Ni Jihua, deputy director of Zhejiang's anti-corruption bureau, said the amount of money increased last year because of the rapid growth in land and housing prices.

Several corruption cases involved millions of yuan, Ni said.

Yin of the law institute said public scrutiny is usually more effective than legislation and media supervision when it comes to corruption.

"Of course, officials should declare their assets before they take office to prevent corruption," Yin said.

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