Wed, Nov 01, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Shanghai graft probe nets mascot boss

OLYMPIC CORRUPTION?The chairman of Haixin Group, the firm manufacturing the mascots for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, is the latest high-profile figure to be questioned


Shanghai authorities are investigating another businessman, an executive of the listed Shanghai Haixin Group that makes 2008 Olympic mascots, for involvement in the city's spreading pension fund scandal.

Yuan Yonglin (袁永林), Haixin's president and deputy chairman of the board, was suspected of violating regulations, the company said yesterday, but gave no details.

Last week, the government said two senior officials in charge of managing Shanghai's government-owned assets were under investigation in the scandal that has already brought down the city's Communist Party secretary.

"According to a notice from the higher authorities, vice board chairman and president Comrade Yuan Yonglin is helping with the investigation and is suspected of violating regulations and discipline ... At present, the company is running normally," Shanghai Haixin said in a statement to the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

An official from the Haixin group press office, who refused to give his name, confirmed that Yuan Yonglin was "assisting the investigation."

The mascots the company makes are called the "Five Friendlies" -- a panda, Tibetan antelope, fish, swallow and the Olympic flame.

Shanghai's party secretary, Chen Liangyu (陳良宇), was fired last month in connection with the scandal over alleged misuse of more than US$380 million in pension funds.

He was the highest-level official to lose his job for corruption charges in a decade.

The government announced last week that 17,505 officials have been punished for corruption this year -- part of a perennial campaign to stamp out rampant abuses that threaten to erode public acceptance of Communist rule.

Ling Baoheng (凌寶亨), chief of Shanghai's State Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, and Wu Hongmei (吳鴻玫), a vice director for the commission, are among dozens of officials and businessmen reportedly implicated in the scandal over alleged illicit investments of Shanghai pension and housing funds.

The commission oversees several major city projects targeted in the probe, including the city's Formula One auto racing track.

China is also dealing with a huge corruption problem in its legal system, with the country's top judge, Xiao Yang (肖揚), on Monday pledging to punish crooked judges to try to restore public confidence in the rule of law.

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