Anti-corruption officers are on heightened lookout for officials who implement
a conniving and devious scheme to get their families abroad before they too
flee with their ill-begotten gains already safely stashed in overseas banks.
Their modus operandi involves cunning, timing and a good amount of luck.
It starts when corrupt officials realize they are in too deep and are bound to
be caught someday. Many have embezzled millions upon millions – too much
to spend in China or to get away with. The first step might be to send a son
or daughter to study overseas. A spouse soon follows and opens a bank
account, or several. Transfers are made and properties in China are sold or
registered in a relative’s name.
With their escape plan ready to hatch at anytime the official continues in their
job,raking in bribes and embezzling as much as they can. At the last moment,
perhaps even after an investigation into their corrupt practices has begun, the
official simply pockets a fake passport, walks out the door of their home, drives
to the airport and leaves China for good, oftentimes getting off scot-free.
These rogues in government have become the latest target that commentators,
and the public, love to hate. With a wife or husband and children overseas, little
money in the bank here and no home of their own, the often high-flying thieves of
the public purse have earned the euphemistic nickname “naked official.”
Zhou Peng’an, a member of China Democratic League, one of China’s
Non-Communist Parties and a popular blogger, asked “How many corrupt
officials are naked?” in July 2008. The answer to Zhou’s question varies widely.
Lin Zhe, a well-known anti-corruption expert, speaking angrily at last year’s
legislative session, estimated that almost 1.2 million officials went naked between
1995 and 2005.
A report by People’s Bank of China in June last year suggested corrupt officials
had smuggled an estimated 800 billion yuan ($124 billion) out of China between
1995 and 2008. The bank said research by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
indicated that between 16,000 to 18,000 government employees, including police
officers, judicial officers, senior managers of government institutions and
State-owned companies, had fled abroad during that period.