China official had cash stash of $20 million; police deploy 16 money-counting machines

BEIJING (AFP) - A Chinese official was found to have kept more than 100 million yuan (S$20 million) in cash at his home, in the country's latest apparent corruption scandal, a report said Thursday.

Police deployed 16 money-counting machines to count the stash held by Wei Pengyuan, whose job involved approving the construction of power stations, respected financial media outlet Caixin reported.

Four of the counting machines broke down during the process, the report added. Wei is the deputy head of the coal bureau at China's National Energy Administration.

The highest value Chinese banknote is 100 yuan. That means Wei's stash contained at least a million notes, which would stack up to around 100m if placed in a single pile.

Authorities are investigating Wei, Caixin said.

China's ruling Communist Party has pledged to crack down on corruption as it tries to improve its image following a number of scandals involving government officials.

Several senior personnel have been ousted over alleged graft in recent years, while regular reports of low-level malfeasance are a major source of public discontent.

At the same time China has cracked down on activists who want legal reforms requiring officials to disclose their financial assets, with one such campaigner jailed for four years in January.

Relatives of top Chinese leaders including President Xi Jinping and former premier Wen Jiabao have used offshore tax havens to hide their wealth, according to a mammoth investigation released in January by the US-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

In 2012, the New York Times and Bloomberg news agency published investigations into vast wealth said to have been amassed by family members of Wen and Xi. Neither official was accused of wrongdoing.