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Land officials probed over fake certificates

TWO land officials in southern China have been suspended while an investigation probes an allegation that they profited by issuing fake certificates.

Disciplinary supervisors in Guangdong Province's capital Guangzhou launched an investigation on Monday night into the officials, surnamed Luo and Huang, from Guangzhou Geological Survey, the Southern Metropolis Daily reported today.

Luo and Huang are alleged to have charged undercover reporters from the newspaper 25,000 yuan (US$3,660.33) to issue a certificate proving a patch of apparently safe hill they randomly identified in Dashi Town of Guangzhou's Panyu City was geologically dangerous.

The certificate is a license to excavate earth from the hill. Every truck of dirt can generate profit of about 200 yuan for the reporters.

Normally, the certificate would be issued to cover areas where a landslide or other geological dangers are detected or have occurred, according to a spokesperson with the Guangzhou Land Resources and Housing Administration.

The spokesperson described the fake certificates as personal activities by the two officials and the administration is mulling over their punishment.

The geological danger certificates should be issued to government departments instead of enterprises or individuals, he said. And the certificates should be given free, he added.

He admitted the fake certificates revealed loopholes in the administration's management systems.

The certificates were preprinted in July 2006 for officials to issue in case of an emergency geological crisis, he told the newspaper.

The administration is checking how many of the 100-plus certificates it issued last year were involved in the fake scandal, the spokesperson said.

But he pointed out that the 677 geologically dangerous sites the city published in April are all genuine as they were detected after joint onsite inspections by Guangzhou Geological Survey and other geological departments.


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