BEIJING (Reuters) - A former senior Chinese military officer was obsessed with gold and often ferried gold bars for bribes in a luxury car, a Hong Kong magazine reported on Monday, in connection with a graft case which investigators estimate is worth some $5 billion.
The government charged Lieutenant General Gu Junshan, who had been deputy director of the logistics department of the People’s Liberation Army, with corruption in March, and he is suspected of selling hundreds of military positions.
Phoenix Weekly, a magazine run by Hong Kong broadcaster Phoenix Television which has close ties with the Chinese government, said that total ill-gotten gains amounted to some 30 billion yuan ($5 billion), including about 600 million yuan in bribes accepted by Gu.
Gu also loved gold, especially gold statues of Buddha, though he preferred receiving ground up gold rather than gold bars when he was taking bribes, the magazine added, in a story widely carried by mainland Chinese news websites.
When offering gifts, he would fill up a Mercedes with hundreds of bars of gold and then simply hand over the car keys to the recipient, the report said.
“Gu got exactly what he wanted,” a person with knowledge of the probe told the magazine.
Gu’s case is connected to Xu Caihou, who retired as deputy head of the powerful Central Military Commission last year and from the ruling Communist Party’s decision-making Politburo in 2012.
Xu’s graft probe was announced in June.
The magazine said that Gu had powerful patrons, though did not name Xu directly, referring only to a person called “X”.
It has not been possible to reach either for comment and it is not clear if they have lawyers.
President Xi Jinping has launched a sweeping campaign against graft since becoming party chief in late 2012 and president last year, vowing to take down powerful “tigers” as well as lowly “flies”.
He has made weeding out corruption in the military a top goal. It comes as Xi steps up efforts to modernise forces that are projecting power across the disputed waters of the East and South China Seas, though it has not fought a war in decades.
($1 = 6.1725 yuan)
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie