The Supreme People’s Procuratorate said on Tuesday that it has started arrest and extradition procedures against Zhang Hai, the former president of beverage maker Jianlibao Group, who is wanted on suspicion of bribing prison officials to obtain early release from jail.
Zhang, is said to have left the country with his girlfriend after being freed from jail in 2011. He had served four years behind bars for embezzlement.
“We have notified the Ministry of Public Security, and it has issued a warrant,” the SPP said in a statement. It did not specify where Zhang had gone.
Zhang’s 15-year prison sentence for embezzlement was reduced several times in a series of questionable commutations before he was set free in January 2011.
According to the SPP, prosecutors have investigated 24 suspects for dereliction of duty, including 14 correctional officers and one court judge who allegedly accepted bribes and used their positions to help Zhang get reduced sentences and gain eventual release.
In February 2007, Zhang was convicted of embezzlement and misappropriation of funds and sentenced to 15 years by the Foshan Intermediate People’s Court in Guangdong province. Zhang appealed to the Guangdong Provincial High People’s Court.
Huang Lu, Zhang’s girlfriend, and Kang Jie, Zhang’s secretary, then contacted Luo Jianneng, deputy director of the Foshan detention house, as well as a correctional officer surnamed Chen, who provided tip-offs for Zhang to expose the crimes of two other suspects. Zhang’s assistance in that matter was used as the basis for his first sentence reduction, according to the SPP, and in September 2008, the Guangdong high court shortened Zhang’s sentence to 10 years.
Also in 2008, Huang bribed Guo Zichuan, a senior official at the Guangdong Provincial Prison Management Bureau, to transfer Zhang to another prison and obtain another commutation for him, according to the SPP statement.
In November 2008, Zhang was housed at a prison in Foshan. In December, he was transferred to another prison in Panyu.
In 2009, Huang allegedly bribed Wang Chengkui, former deputy Party chief of the Guangdong Provincial Justice Bureau, to get preferential treatment for Zhang, according to the SPP.
In November that year, Zhang was transferred to Wujiang prison in Shaoguan to serve his sentence.
While there, Zhang allegedly directed others to falsely obtain a patent for a new type of product. Based on that, the prison touted Zhang’s merits, according to the SPP, and in September 2010, the prison requested that the Shaoguan Intermediate People’s Court shorten Zhang’s sentence because of his good behavior. The court complied, and Zhang’s sentence was commuted by two years.
On Jan 25, 2011, his sentence was again commuted by the court, which cited Zhang’s “significant contribution”.
Zhang was set free from jail the next day.
Hong Daode, a law professor at China University of Political Science and Law, said that if law enforcement officials abused their power and accepted bribes in Zhang’s case, it would indicate serious corruption in the detention and prison system.
“Corruption in law enforcement agencies should be eliminated,” Hong said. “Meanwhile, the prosecuting departments should perform their duties to improve supervision over the prison system.”
Li Fang, a lawyer from the All-China Lawyers Association, suggested that correctional officers should be required to present all requests for commutations to prosecutors stationed at the prisons. After review, a prosecutor should obtain a second review by a higher court before taking any action.
Moreover, when a higher court hears commutation cases, public hearings should be held to avoid miscarriages of justice, Li said, adding that judges should visit the prisons to obtain first-hand evidence rather than making decisions based solely on written documents.
A number of individuals have been prosecuted and convicted in the case.
Guo Zichuan was convicted of accepting bribes and of dereliction of duty, and was sentenced to six years in prison by a local court.
Ting Xiongfei, former director of the examination and supervision department of the Shaoguan Intermediate People’s Court, was convicted of bribery and was sentenced to five years in prison.
Luo Jianneng was convicted of accepting bribes and was also sentenced to five years.
Other suspects are facing prosecution.