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article imageChinese officials seize $14.5 billion assets in corruption probe

By Ken Hanly     Mar 31, 2014 in Politics
Beijing - Chinese authorities seized at least $14.5 billion in assets belonging to a retired former domestic security head Zhou Yongkang as well as his family and associates in one of the largest corruption scandals ever in China.
The seizure targeted a huge number of individuals more than 300 including Zhou's relatives, political allies and staff who have been either questioned or subject to arrest. The actions against Zhou indicate that President Xi Jinping is taking on graft at the highest levels but there is also a power struggle involved. Zhou opposed the ouster of popular politician Bo Xilai who was jailed for life last September on charges of corruption and abuse of power. Bo's wife had been convicted of murdering a British businessmen and friend of the two. Zhou's defense of Bo angered party leaders. Zhou had recommended Bo be domsetic security chief to take over after Zhou's retirement.
In going after Zhou, President Xi is violating an unwritten rule that retired and sitting members of the Standing Committee such as Zhou will not investigated or charged.
To place Zhou on trial would be a political decision that Xi would make only after consultation with other senior party members and other retired top officials. He would need to reassure other senior officials that they would not be next. A trial also could further undermine the credibility of the party. Many in China are angry at the graft and abuse of power among the elites.
The Chinese government has yet to make any official announcement about the investigation and Zhou and others involved. The Communist Party anti-corruption watchdog as well as the prosecutor's office refused to comment on the case.
Presiden Xi had ordered a task force to investigate Zhou back in late November. The investigation was into whether Zhou had violated party discipline usually the phraseology used to describe corruption. Zhou apparently refused to cooperate claiming he was a victim of a power struggle. Zhou retired in 2012. While domestic security chief he oversaw a budget larger than that of defense.
Reuters quotes two sources as saying that as well as bank accounts: Investigators had also confiscated about 300 apartments and villas worth around 1.7 billion yuan, antiques and contemporary paintings with a market value of 1 billion yuan and more than 60 vehicles, the sources added. Other items seized included expensive liquor, gold, silver and cash in local and foreign currencies. Most of the assets seized were not in Zhou's name.
More about Chines government, corruption in China, Zhou yongkang
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