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Ex construction chief gets 16 years for high-rise inferno

A local court today sentenced the former head of a district construction authority to 16 years in jail for charges arising from last November's high-rise inferno that killed 58 people.

Gao Weizhong, former director of the Jing'an District Construciton and Transport Commission, was found guilty of abusing his power and taking bribes in the multi-million-yuan renovation project at the fated building, according to the Shanghai No.2 Intermediate People's Court.

The court also found unlicensed welders were employed in the project contractor and their mishandling caused the fire. But the two welders were given suspended sentences by the court.

Wu Guolue, charged with major accident liability, was sentenced to jail for one year with a two-year reprieve. And Wang Yongliang was exempted from criminal punishment.

Four others held responsible for causing the fire also received their sentences today.

During a previous hearing, Gao admitted that he had abused his power and accepted about 120,000 yuan (US$18,553) in bribes.

Prosecutors said he approved the renovation of the building although it was not included in the energy-saving project funded by the Jing'an District government.

Gao told the Jing'an Construction Co to bid for the project and subcontract it to Shanghai Jiayi Building and Decoration Engineering Co, which, prosecutors said, was not qualified to carry out the 30 million yuan project.

In his defense, Gao told the court that the renovation was requested by the residents living in the building.


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