December 11, 2015 / 2:42 AM / 2 years ago

China to prosecute former environment official for graft

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese authorities will prosecute a former environment official for corruption after an investigation found he took bribes and accepted invites from company executives to play golf, the Environment Ministry said on Friday.

Xiong Yuehui was head of a technological standards division at the ministry until he became subject of a corruption probe in August.

An investigation by graft inspectors found Xiong actively sought to hamper the probe, forming a “conspiracy of silence” with others, breaking party discipline rules and covering up his personal affairs, the ministry’s discipline body said.

He used his position to “seek benefits” for others, and took gifts including cash, the ministry said in a statement released by the ruling Communist Party’s anti-graft watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

Xiong “many times went to private clubs and accepted invitations from company bosses to play golf”, it added.

It was not possible to reach Xiong for comment and unclear if he has a lawyer.

Tales of corruption and officials’ high living, including extravagant banquets and expensive rounds on golf courses, have stirred widespread public anger because bureaucrats are meant to live on modest sums and lead morally exemplary lives.

In October, the party for the first time listed golf as a discipline violation as it tightened rules to stop officials engaging in corrupt practices.

Private clubs have also been a target of President Xi Jinping’s sweeping battle against deep-seated corruption due to their reputation in China as places where shady dealings or sexual liaisons are carried out by an extravagant elite.

Xiong has been formally removed from his position and his case handed over to legal authorities, the ministry said, meaning he will be prosecuted.

The Environment Ministry is at the forefront of government efforts to tackle the country’s serious pollution problem, including the smog that often covers China’s major cities.

In July, the government announced a corruption probe into a former deputy environment minister, Zhang Lijun. There has been no news of him since.

In February, China’s main anti-graft body reprimanded the ministry for a series of problems, including interference by ministry officials and their relatives in environmental impact assessments.

Environmental degradation is one of China’s most serious issues and a very sensitive one too, with thousands of protests every year sparked by concern about pollution, particularly from factories.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry

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