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February 2, 2010

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6 plead guilty to key roles in collapse at Lotus Riverside site

SIX people who were directly responsible for the building collapse of the Lotus Riverside community in Shanghai pleaded guilty yesterday to a charge of causing serious accidents.

Their confessions pointed to failures in construction management and revealed that some builders didn't have qualifications, factors leading to the June accident that caused the death of a worker and direct economic losses that prosecutors put at 19.46 million yuan (US$2.85 million).

The two major suspects in the case, Que Jingde, former assisting director of Meilong Town and a partner in the Lotus Riverside developer Meidu Real Estate Development Co Ltd; and Zhang Zhiqin, Meidu's legal representative, didn't appear at the hearing at the Minhang District People's Court.

They will be dealt with in a separate case to be heard by the Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People's Court. Usually, those who may get a sentence of at least 15 years are tried by an appellate court.

In August 2006, Meidu entrusted Shanghai Zhongxin Construction Co Ltd to build the Lotus Riverside complex. Shanghai Guangqi Construction Supervision Co Ltd was hired as the project supervisor.

The developer appointed Qin Yonglin, 50, to manage the whole project though his license had expired, prosecutors said.

"I told the boss I wasn't competent but he said I only needed to coordinate the parties joining the project," Qin told the court.

Qin said that, on Zhang Zhiqin's orders, he contracted Zhang Yaoxiong in 2008 to dig the community's underground garages, even though the boss knew that Zhang Yaoxiong hadn't obtained the necessary licenses.

Zhang Yaojie, Zhongxin's legal representative and also elder brother of Zhang Yaoxiong, told the court he didn't know why his brother won the digging project and he had no idea whether his brother was qualified to do the digging.

Prosecutors alleged that Qin instructed Zhang Yaoxiong to pile earth dug out from the garage site on the north side of No. 7 building to quicken the project construction while a garage was being dug on the south side. The earth rose to 10 meters in height.

As the project continued, the builder didn't measure the bearing capacity of the soil foundation.

Though some people, including Zhang Yaoxiong, warned that the No. 7 building might collapse, not enough attention was paid to the high earth pile, the court heard.

The building toppled on June 27, 2009, because the pressure on both sides moved the foundations horizontally, leaving them unable to support the building.

A worker on the site suffocated to death.

The construction cost of the toppled building was evaluated to be 6.69 million yuan, and 12.77 million yuan compensation was paid to the property buyers.


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