25 October 2016
A hundred million yuan in 100-yuan notes weighs about one metric ton. Photo: Bloomberg
A hundred million yuan in 100-yuan notes weighs about one metric ton. Photo: Bloomberg

How to stash away millions of yuan in bribes

Oops. Chinese investigators have confirmed the seizure of more than US$31 million in cash at an anti-graft official’s house last week.

Liu Xiangdong, a leading official of the “inspection team” in charge of the government’s anti-corruption efforts in Shanxi, was stripped of his Communist Party membership and removed from his position, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the party’s top anti-corruption committee, said in a statement on its website.

Liu was accused of “violating inspection rules and leaking related secrets” and accepting large bribes.

Wang Rulin, a top official in the province, said investigators discovered about US$31.7 million in Chinese currency at Liu’s home and that most of the bills were covered in dust and fungus, according to a Los Angeles Times story.

Reports were unclear on how Liu quietly accumulated such mass quantities of hard cash in his residence or where he hid his hoard.

It’s possible he brought home a little bit at a time, maybe in his coat pocket, or on a good day of graft, in his lunch box.

But bigger bribes no doubt called for more streetwise means of discretion.

Liu, like any self-respecting corrupt Chinese official, had to know that walking around with obscene amounts of money in a briefcase—no matter how neatly stacked and bound—is like direct dialing state security and turning yourself in.

After all, only terrorists, drug dealers and Las Vegas whales (Macau no longer has any) exchange money in this way.

(Pro tip: a Zero Halliburton brand brushed-aluminum attache is just the right size for ten thousand American one-hundred-dollar bills, or US$1 million. Crammed with 100 yuan bills, about US$140,000, or still a lot.)

If I were Liu, I would have hauled big booty home in a wheelbarrow, covered with a blanket of course.

Where Liu kept all his ill-gotten gains also remains a question.

According to an unrelated New York Times report, 100 million yuan in 100-yuan notes weighs about one metric ton.

Liu had over 200 million yuan—203,116,165 yuan to be more precise—so where he put over 4,500 pounds worth of cash is anyone’s guess.

Did he have a vault atop a reinforced foundation?

Or did he have money strewn untidily all over his house?

Or maybe he was a neat freak, fanatically bundling and rebundling and rebundling the fruits of his chicanery.

However you toss it, he was rolling in the dough—just shy of the record US$33 million in cash seized in 2014 from the home of Wei Pengyuan, former deputy chief at China’s National Energy Administration’s coal department.

In that case, investigators wore out four of 16 cash-counting machines used to measure the haul.

In yet another bust, investigators last year found US$19.6 million in cash, 81.6 pounds of gold and ownership documents for 68 homes, again in a family residence.

Unlike the Wei and Liu seizures, however, which took down high-ranking officials previously thought untouchable, this case took down a minor official of a district water supply company in Hebei province.

At the time, Ma Chaoqun, the obscure official, shot to unwelcome fame when his mother put forth the implausible excuse that the wealth belonged to her departed husband, a doctor who died in 2012, said the New York Times.

He had done a little business on the side, she explained.

China’s anti-corruption campaign, launched more than two years ago after Xi Jinping took office as president, has brought down a number of heavyweights, including the former domestic security chief, Zhou Yongkang; two former vice presidents of the Central Military Commission, China’s top military command; and Ling Jihua, a top aide to former President Hu Jintao, noted the Los Angeles Times.

Xi’s campaign is primarily carried out by “inspection teams” dispatched by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

Members are in charge of auditing officials in different provinces and busting corrupt bureaucrats in various levels of the government.

The inspection teams are comprised mostly of local officials who are deemed trustworthy by the party’s top anti-corruption organization.

But it is difficult to root out corruption by handing the task to officials who are products of the same system.

Liu was the first leading official of the anti-graft efforts to be fired for corruption, said the Times.

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A strategist and marketing consultant on China business

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