Corruption probe lifts lid on graft in Chinese military

Top general accused of land grabs, lining his pockets with gold, grog


Under the cover of night, investigators last year hauled away four truckloads of plunder, including gold statues and boxes of high-end liquor that were allegedly part of the ill-gotten gains of a Chinese general under investigation for corruption, a financial magazine reported.

The investigation, corroborated in an online forum by a National Defense University professor in what was considered an official confirmation, highlights rampant corruption within the Chinese military. Details of the case, against Lt. Gen. Gu Junshan, may never be announced publicly because it is most likely to go before a military tribunal.

The highly regarded financial newspaper, Caixin, published several articles Tuesday on the rise of Gu to a position of great influence within the military and the investigation against him, including details about confiscated goods and a mansion he built modeled on the Forbidden City in Beijing.

Caixin said military investigators catalogued the goods at one of Gu’s mansions during the daytime but carried out the confiscation at night to avoid any sightings by members of the public, who might become outraged. The items included a boat, statue and basin all made of gold, and countless cases of Moutai liquor.

“About two dozen military policemen in plainclothes queued up in two lines, facing each other. Boxes and boxes of special-order Moutai were transported to the two military trucks parked at the door,” Caixin wrote, describing the scene on the night of Jan. 12, 2013.

Gu has not been seen since early 2012 and his name has been removed from the official website of the Defense Ministry. Last summer, Gong Fangbin, a professor at the PLA National Defense University, confirmed that Gu was under investigation in a public forum organized by the party-run People’s Daily newspaper, saying members of the public were upset with the crimes of Gu and his predecessor. The predecessor, Wang Shouye, was given a suspended death sentence by a military court in 2006 for taking bribes amounting to tens of millions of dollars.

The Caixin report was the first to provide details of the investigation into Gu. It said the officer lined his pockets through huge kickbacks in transfers of military-owned land in premium locations throughout China.

In Shanghai, Gu allegedly got a 6 percent kickback after a piece of military land fetched more than 2 billion yuan ($330 million), and in his hometown of Puyang, his family was known for land-grabbing and real estate developments, Caixin said.

In Puyang, Gu’s family built seven riverside villas for Gu and his siblings, but the best-known among locals is the general’s house in the heart of Puyang on a piece of land seized from a local collective without any paperwork, Caixin said. Modeled after the imperial palace in Beijing, the general’s house has two guarding elephants, a fountain, a garden with winding covered corridors, and living quarters for butlers and servants, Caixin said.

Quoting villagers hired to build the house, Caixin said Gu cherry-picked artisans from the imperial palace museum to paint the interiors.

Caixin said Gu was particularly skillful in courting good will among military bosses, but also proved himself competent in handling logistic affairs during his rise through the ranks.

His years in the military’s logistics department coincided with a massive buildup in barracks and housing, Caixin said.