August 15, 2011 / 6:15 AM / 8 years ago

Local coal boss in China gets 20-year jail term for corruption

BEIJING, Aug 15 (Reuters) - A Chinese court sentenced a local coal boss in central Shanxi province to 20 years in jail and millions of yuan in fines after he was convicted for illegally running a mine and using earnings to amass dozens of homes across the country, state media reported.

Hao Pengjun, the head of the Pu county coal office, collected 35 homes, most in Beijing and the southern Chinese resort island of Hainan, worth more than 170 million yuan ($26.5 million).

Hao and family members also had personal bank accounts worth a “shocking” 127 million yuan ($20 million), state broadcaster China Central Television reported at the weekend.

The case is the latest scandal showing the depth of official-level corruption in China, even at lower levels within the government.

China’s ruling Communist Party has repeatedly vowed to stamp out government corruption, which is stoking public discontent. But critics say graft flourishes because Chinese officials are not answerable to an electorate or independent judiciary and media.

A local court gave Hao, in his early 60s, two decades in prison for corruption, reflecting what Chinese media called “loopholes” in China’s coal sector supervision.

The court also hit Hao and his wife, an accountant at the Chengnanling mine, with tax evasion charges and 260 million yuan in fines. Authorities billed it as the top anti-corruption case in the major coal producing province.

Reports said Hao had illegally purchased a mining licence in 2000, and five years later, under pressure from a government anti-corruption body, faked the withdrawal of his personal shares in the Chengnanling mine.

“In Hao’s hands, the mine became his protective umbrella and his privately-run enterprise,” a report on the popular Chinese Internet portal Sina.com said.

Chinese media reports said Hao had served in various roles as the Pu county coal mine chief, the Communist Party secretary for the coal mining office, the county’s mining chief, and the head of the local coal mine safety administration.

Reporting by Michael Martina; Additional reporting by Sabrina Mao; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Ed Lane

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