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August 19, 2009

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Arrest in toppled-building case

QUE Jingde, who held a job as a high-level town government official at the same time he was a major shareholder in the company linked to the apartment building that toppled in June, has been arrested for corruption, Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng said yesterday.

Han revealed the arrest - but did not provide further details - while briefing the Shanghai People's Congress on the progress of the investigation into the June 27 collapse of the 13-story building. The nearly finished apartment house in Minhang District's Lotus Riverside development toppled as a result of dangerous excavation practices, killing a worker who was inside at the time.

Que had been among those at the center of inquiry ever since authorities learned he was the second-biggest shareholder in the project's developer, Meidu Real Estate Co Ltd, while holding a position as assistant to the chief of Meilong Town, where the ill-fated building was located.

Minhang District government said late last month that Que was removed from his posts. They also said Que's position as assistant to the Meilong Town chief was "invalid" since it was authorized "irregularly" by Cai Jianzhong, the town's Party secretary.

'Overstepping authority'

Cai was suspended from duty and is under investigation for "overstepping his authority."

Seven others connected with the building collapse were arrested last week.

The district prosecutors said they will charge the suspects with being responsible for a fatal accident, which carries a maximum penalty of seven years.

Among the other high-visibility suspects was Zhang Zhiqin, board chairman and general manager of Meidu. The other suspects were Zhang Yaojie, board chairman of Shanghai Zhongxin Construction Co Ltd, the builder of the complex; Xia Jiangang and Lu Weiying, Zhongxin employees; Zhang Yaoxiong, younger brother of Zhang Yaojie; Qiao Lei, chief engineer of Shanghai Guangqi Construction Supervision Co Ltd and chief supervisor of the Lotus project; and Qin Yonglin, a Meidu employee.

An investigation found the accident was caused by improper directions given to workers to increase the speed of construction.

Workers had piled excavated earth up to 10 meters high on one side of the building while digging a 4.6-meter-deep underground garage on the other side.

Pressure from the piled-up earth caused the foundation to move and the building to topple, authorities said.


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