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China Finds $1.5 Billion Held By Corrupt Officials

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BEIJING — China has found $1.5 billion in public money held illegally by officials across the country in a crackdown since June, the latest measure of the widespread corruption that has long infuriated its citizens.

The country's anti-corruption chief, He Guoqiang, told a meeting Friday that the crackdown found more than 22,000 cases in which officials held public money for personal use, and that 81 officials from the government and ruling Communist Party have been prosecuted. Hundreds of other officials received administrative punishment.

He said the crackdown should focus on departments directly under the central government, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported – a sign that the problem exists at high levels.

China cracks down regularly on official corruption, a major source of social unrest. Similar nationwide sweeps from 1998 to 2006 found 140.6 billion yuan ($20.5 billion) illegally held by officials, state media reported last year.

In such cases, officials put aside public money for personal use, which He called "fertile ground" for corruption.

In a recent corruption case, a Beijing court in May handed down a suspended death sentence to the accountant of a local state-owned public sanitation company after she was found guilty of embezzling 36 million yuan.

The accountant, Yu Shaolan, used some of the money to buy three apartments and hid the rest in a bank account, news reports said at the time.

The court said Yu, 50, deserved death for the large amount of money embezzled, but suspended the sentence because the money had been retrieved.

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