China official admits millions in jade bribes: report

BEIJING (AFP) - A former senior Chinese provincial official told a court he took around 13 million yuan (S$2.7million) in bribes consisting largely of precious stones, state-run media reported Tuesday.

Ni Fake, a former deputy governor of the eastern province of Anhui, had a "craving for jade", the state-run Shanghai Daily said.

His trial on Monday was the latest case in a corruption crackdown under President Xi Jinping, who has said the scourge threatens the ruling Communist party.

Ni told the court he had accepted 49 bribes, including cash, gemstones and artworks, the Shanghai Daily said.

Jade has been used in Chinese art for millennia, and has long been as valued as gold is in the West, but carrying loftier moral connotations including purity and longevity.

Corrupt officials have in recent years turned to taking bribes in the form of art and precious stones rather than money, according to previous reports in state-run media.

The Communist party's top anti-graft body said Ni was "obsessed with collecting jade" and had appointed himself honorary chairman of the provincial jewellery industry association, the Shanghai Daily said.

The official wore jade accessories every day and went to jade stores every weekend, the report quoted the Party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) as saying.

The 60-year-old was expelled from the party last year. More senior figures have fallen to the anti-corruption campaign, including Zhou Yongkang, a former member of China's all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee.

But the Communist party has resisted introducing reforms seen as key measures against graft, such as publishing officials' assets, relaxing controls on media and establishing an independent legal system.

Despite the crackdown, a recent report by Berlin-based Transparency International suggested that corruption has actually worsened in China, in part because "too many cases take place behind closed doors".