China executes "land granny" for corruption spree
BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese official dubbed the "land granny" was executed after amassing 145 million yuan ($23 million) in bribes and illicit wealth, media reported on Thursday, offering a glimpse into the country's underground economy in land deals.
Luo Yaping was head of a land sub-bureau in a district of Fushun, a city in northeast China -- not an especially high position -- and yet she was able to use her power over land development and compensation to accumulate a fortune in bribes and embezzled compensation, the China News Service reported.
Luo, 50, was executed on Wednesday, the report said
"The media called her the 'land granny' because she looted 145 million yuan," said the report.
A leader of the ruling Communist Party's anti-corruption agency said Luo's crime involved "the lowest ranked official, the biggest amount, and the most evil means," the China News Service said.
China's leaders are struggling to tame both feverish property price rises and discontent over land grabs, and Luo's exploits illustrated the problems created by giving officials such a powerful grip over land transactions.
A recent survey found disputes over land acquisitions had reached a new peak driven by hectic development across China and was a leading cause of rural clashes, a Chinese news magazine reported late last month.
Between 2001 and 2007, officials said, Luo made 71 million yuan from bogus compensation accounts and illicit land deals, and accumulated another 44 million yuan in assets for which she could offer no legitimate explanation.
The report did not explain how officials arrived at the bigger estimate that Luo illegally amassed 145 million yuan.
When Luo was detained, she was carrying 50,000 yuan in her purse, as well as more than a dozen bank cards, one for an account holding 19 million yuan. Investigators also found a bank safe kept in her name which held accounts, cash and insurance policies worth 55.2 million yuan.
Luo also accumulated 22 properties in Fushun, a formerly rust-belt city where mine and factory closures have triggered protests in past years.
When Luo found anti-graft investigators were on her trail, she sent her daughter abroad and applied to emigrate to Canada, the China News Service said. She was arrested in 2008.
($1 = 6.340 Chinese yuan)
(Reporting by Chris Buckley)
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