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October 16, 2009

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Inquiry into university graft widens

INVESTIGATORS probing a campus graft scandal in central China over student apartment construction have uncovered a web of deceit.

They were first tipped off by the wife of the apartment developer who was placed in custody and then cooperated with authorities.

Prosecutors said more executives at the prestigious Wuhan University in Hubei Province were likely to be involved since both vice president and vice Party secretary of the school have been arrested for allegedly taking bribes over major infrastructure construction projects, People's Daily reported yesterday.

Ba Nengjun, chairman of Wuhan-based Hongbo Group, was reported to have collaborated with Chen Zhaofang, vice president of the university, and Long Shaole, vice Party secretary, in a student apartment project, according to the 21 Century Business Herald.

Ba, the developer of the project, was short of funds then, but Chen guaranteed his bank loan via the credibility of the university and paid him three years of rent in advance, the newspaper said.

Gu Hailiang, the university president, told China Youth Daily that Chen and Long were involved in a disciplinary violation with several million yuan between 1999 and 2000 during the construction of the apartments.

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A commissioner in Hubei Provincial People's Procuratorate confirmed the connection among Ba, Chen and Long.

Long was in charge of the university's infrastructure then and Chen succeeded him.

Ba was also a major investor in the university's 1-billion-yuan (US$146 million) joint-venture Donghu campus in Wuhan's Donghu District.

People's Daily quoted a senior university executive as saying that Ba planned to divorce his wife, who once served as his company accountant. The spurned woman reported Ba and his collaborators to authorities a few months ago.

Ba has now been placed in custody in Hubei's Jingzhou.

Wuhan University merged three other local colleges in 2000 and planned a total of 2.5 billion yuan of investments before 2010 for the campus construction.

Nationwide mergers and acquisitions among colleges were encouraged from 2000 by the state.

Several university executives have been penalized in recent years over campus corruption, including Li Haiying, former vice president of Wuhan University of Technology, and Xu Zhonghua, from Beijing University of Chinese Medicine.


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