China recovers $333 million from firms cheating green car subsidies

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has recovered 2.3 billion yuan ($333 million) from companies that cheated a subsidy program to promote green energy cars, the country’s Finance Minister Xiao Jie told a briefing on Tuesday.

China’s central government has spent billions in subsidies to aggressively promote battery electric and plug-in hybrid cars, aiming to cut urban air pollution and encourage domestic car makers to leapfrog global competitors in automotive technology.

Last year, the finance ministry concluded its investigation into the cheating scandal, with dozens of companies eventually being named for wrongfully obtaining subsidies.

Automakers, predominantly coach bus makers, were found to have used various methods to cheat the program, including fabricating production and sales entirely, selling cars to their own leasing companies and seeking subsidies for vehicles that did not meet minimum technical requirements.

Reporting by Judy Hua and Jake Spring; Editing by Richard Pullin