Ma Chaoqun never amounted to much in the ranks of China’s government, but this mid-level manager who spent decades at a state-run water company in Hebei seems to have made the most of it, and then invested the most of that into real estate.
Mr Ma, who worked for the water supply company in the Hebei resort town of Beidaihe (a favorite summer retreat of top government officials), and later for the city government of Qinhuangdao recently had his home raided by the police, after a tipoff from an ex-colleague. When the authorities searched the public servant’s residence, in addition to finding RMB 120 million ($19.6 million) in cash, they also found 37 kilos of gold (worth about $1.4 million).
As seems to be the case with many other corrupt officials, however, Ma invested most of his stash into real estate. When the local cops were finished sifting through the ill-gotten booty, they found the paperwork for 68 properties in Beijing and Beidaihe estimated to be worth approximately RMB 1 billion ($163 million).
Chinese Officials, Corruption Cases, and Property
Given the returns provided by China’s real estate industry in recent years, its easy to see the appeal of such investments, however, one might guess that corrupt officials might be put off by all that tell-tale paperwork.
Instead, however, a trail of government leaders have been found with property holdings far out of line with their salaries.
While Ma is one of the smaller “flies” seemingly referred to in President Xi’s famous vow to pursue “tigers and flies” in his anti-corruption drive, his behavior closely tracks that of some of the better known tigers.
When former politburo Zhou Yongkang was taken out earlier this year, among the accusations against the fallen leader were that that his family members benefitted from illicitly obtained partnerships with major property developers, including Kaisa Group and Fantasia Holdings.
In the corruption case against former Guangzhou Party Secretary Wan Qingliang announced in July, some of the key allegations against Wan involved under the table land deals with commercial real estate group Jieyang Chong Hong Holdings Limited.
Also in July, charges against a trio of Inner Mongolian officials accused of corruption included accusations of illicit accumulation of vast real estate holdings.
Leading his Weight Class
While Ma’s misdeeds, and even his personal fortune may pale compared to these tigers, he still seems to be a champion in the fly-weight class.
In a report by Xinhua, the company where Ma worked until he was transferred to Qinhuangdo in 2012 is described as being “responsible for providing safe water for central leaders and Chinese and foreign tourists during the summer.” And within this 200 person company, Ma held the rank of a deputy division head, according to local media reports.
Despite what seems like an ordinary job, however, just the cash holdings alone within Ma’s home are estimated to weigh 1.38 tonnes and take up 1.2 cubic metres of space. The total assets that Ma had on hand in his home (not counting the home itself) are estimated to be worth $184 million.
Looks like Beidaihe’s Ma was a man who knew how to clean up in the water business.