Chinese Officials Steal $120b


News agencies reported today that thousands of corrupt Chinese officials have stolen more than $120 billion and fled overseas since the mid-1990s — and the U.S. was a top destination, according to a report released by the country’s central bank.

The report, released this week by the People’s Bank of China, says between 16,000 to 18,000 government officials and executives at state-owned enterprises smuggled about 800 billion yuan ($123 billion) out of China between the mid-’90s and 2008.

The study says the officials smuggled money into the U.S., Australia, Canada and Holland, using offshore bank accounts or investments such as real estate or collectibles. Officials masked the thefts as business transactions by setting up private companies to receive the money transfers, according to the report.

China has launched numerous efforts in recent years to curb graft, which is often a focal point of protests by ordinary Chinese and is seen as a major threat to political stability. But corruption among Communist Party officials is still common.

The report warned that the corruption was serious enough to threaten China’s economic and political stability.

It said that aside from punishing guilty officials, China should improve monitoring of asset transfers and revise methods of payment overseas.

Chinese prosecutors have made some high-profile takedowns in hopes of deterring graft among the rank and file. In China’s largest recent corruption scandal, the powerful party boss of Shanghai, Chen Liangyu, was sentenced in 2008 to 18 years in prison.