China graft probes up a fifth in first quarter, top prosecutor says

BEIJING Wed May 14, 2014 1:53am EDT

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BEIJING May 14 (Reuters) - China investigated more than 10,000 people in corruption cases in the first three months of 2014, the country's top graft prosecutor said on Wednesday, up nearly a fifth from last year, in the latest bid to spotlight a corruption crackdown.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, who launched the crackdown soon after becoming the head of the ruling Communist Party late in 2012, has made the campaign a central pillar of his regime.

China is persevering in stiffening anti-corruption measures, said Xu Jinhui, head of the prosecutor's anti-corruption and anti-bribery division, which investigated 10,840 people in the first quarter, from among 8,222 cases.

About 82 percent of cases investigated concerned bribes of more than 50,000 yuan ($8,000) or the embezzlement of more than 100,000 yuan, Xu told a news briefing.

"Compared to last year, the number of corruption and bribery offence cases and the number of people investigated, rose 24 percent and 19.8 percent respectively," he added.

Xu said 3,095 people had been prosecuted, an increase of 7.4 percent over the previous year.

Seeking to win back public confidence in the face of a seemingly endless stream of scandals, President Xi has said pervasive graft threatens the party's very survival.

Xi has vowed to target powerful "tigers" as well as lowly "flies", though some analysts say the campaign may be an effort to consolidate his power and remove opposition.

Those swept up in the campaign include the former deputy head of China's top planning agency, Liu Tienan, who was expelled from the party last year for serious violations. His case was later handed over to judicial authorities.

Jiang Jiemin, the former chairman of China National Petroleum Corporation, who most recently headed the government body overseeing state firms, was also felled by a probe last year. (Reporting by Michael Martina and Li Hui; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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