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August 5, 2013

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4 officials suspended in prostitution scandal probe

Four officials allegedly involved in a prostitution scandal have been suspended from their posts while an investigation is carried out, Shanghai disciplinary authorities said yesterday.

Authorities named only one of the four officials — Chen Xueming, president of the Shanghai Higher People’s Court’s No. 1 civil court.

In a video posted online, Zhao Minghua, vice president of the court’s No.1 civil court, is also named as one of five government officials said to be involved.

The whistleblower who posted the video handed up to 30 hours of video footage to disciplinary watchdogs on Saturday morning, and is assisting the investigation, according to the Beijing Times.

The report said the whistleblower, surnamed Ni, began collecting evidence against Zhao after he lost a court case last year. Ni suspected Zhao of manipulating the ruling in that case.

Ni told the Beijing Times that he had only intended to target Zhao but accidentally uncovered evidence of the other officials’ alleged misconduct.

The video posed online claimed that five officials sought prostitution services at the Hengshan Resort hotel in the Pudong New Area on June 9.

Subtitles on the video say they enjoyed a three-hour dinner before going to a luxurious clubroom to choose prostitutes.

After two hours of entertainment, the video claims, they went back to their rooms and four prostitutes later arrived.

Ni uploaded the video last Thursday and disciplinary authorities contacted him the same evening, hoping he could provide more detailed evidence. Ni went to meet the disciplinary authorities at around 6am on Saturday and was with them for more than four hours, the newspaper said.

Ni told the newspaper that the video he uploaded had been edited but that the 30 hours of footage he provided to the authorities was not.

The newspaper said the three other officials in the video were also court officials.

Ni said he wouldn’t have tracked Zhao had he not lost the court case which had forced him to sell his apartment on Huaihai Road to pay debts.

In 2008, Ni signed a 5 million yuan (US$815,000) contract for work on a budget hotel in Zhabei District, under which he would pay 1.5 million in advance and 150,000 yuan a month until the bill was cleared.

In 2010, the boss of a decoration company, surnamed Gu, took Ni to court, claiming the total price was 11 million yuan and that Ni had only paid 1 million yuan.

The court valued the project at 8.2 million yuan and ruled that Ni should pay Gu 7.2 million yuan.

Ni told the newspaper that Gu and his lawyer were both Zhao’s relatives and he suspected Zhao had influenced the verdict, so began to look into the judge’s background.

Ni is said to have found that Zhao had many properties and had improper relationships with women. After finding that Zhao had gone to the Hengshan Resort hotel, Ni claimed he had lost items at the hotel and on June 13 demanded to see the surveillance video. Ni said he had used a cellphone, iPad and other equipment to copy the footage and had uploaded an edited version online.



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