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Corrupt tobacco chief expelled from ruling party

(China Daily)

15:11, October 18, 2011

GUANGZHOU, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) -- A local government tobacco chief has been removed from his post and expelled from the ruling party over rampant corruption charges in a case that has also exposed China's tobacco monopoly's huge profits, officials said Tuesday.

The Guangdong provincial disciplinary watchdog for the Communist Party of China (CPC) has ordered Chen Wenzhu, head of the local branch of the tobacco monopoly in the southern city of Shanwei, to be expelled after probes confirmed graft allegations against him, Lin Jianhua, a spokesman for the Shanwei tobacco monopoly, told Xinhua.

Lin said Chen has also been removed from the monopoly's top post, pending legal procedure.

Chen's case created a sensation after an anonymous informant posted a list of the monopoly's lavish bills on the Internet, showing that 2 million yuan (314,960 U.S. dollars) a month was spent on dining and entertaining in addition to 120,000 yuan spent on the monopoly's canteen each day.

Initial official probes said the monopoly's expenditures on entertainment activities exceeded its budget, but did not give specific numbers.

Investigations found that Chen had given nine relatives and 36 others jobs in the monopoly without following official hiring procedures.

He also forged IDs to bypass the ruling party's restrictions on cadres traveling outside the mainland and "illegally visited" Hong Kong and Macao about 74 times, according to investigations.

China's state tobacco monopoly, also known as China Tobacco Corporation, is the world's largest cigarette producer. China has the world's largest population of smokers at over 300 million people, and about 1.2 million people die of smoking-related illnesses each year.

Huge profits generated by the tobacco industry, some of which go to the government as taxes, are said to have hampered tobacco control efforts.

From 2006 to 2010, taxes and profits generated by the tobacco industry jumped 139 percent to 604.5 billion yuan with an annual growth rate of about 19 percent, according to figures released by the monopoly.

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