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Court officials' travel probe deepens

Guangdong provincial government and disciplinary supervisors are investigating the Guangzhou Maritime Court over claims that six court officials spent more than 480,000 yuan (US$119,991.42) in public funds on an overseas trip.

 

With provincial authorities involved, the court's own disciplinary supervising department has suspended its investigation, an unnamed government official told today's China Youth Daily.

 

In an earlier report in the Guangzhou Daily newspaper, the court's director, Luo Guohua, confirmed he was being investigated over the trip.

 

The story began on June 3 when an e-mail detailing the trip was published online.

 

More than 10 documents, including applications and work reports, were attached.

 

The documents showed that six senior court officials, including the court's director, deputy director and chief judge, visited South Africa, Egypt and Turkey on January 7-18 this year and stopped over at the United Arab Emirates.

 

They intended to research the laws in these countries and the way they handled cases involving oil leaks at sea, according to the application for approval for the trip.

 

But in their reports, there was little discussion about the cases and nearly half of the reports were packed with geographical introductions to the countries.

 

The Netizen alleged the trip cost more than 480,000 yuan, or 82,000 yuan per head, compared to the 20,000 yuan price charged at local travel agencies.

 

The post had sparked public concern about corruption. But there was a louder public outcry when the court responded that its own investigation showed the trip had taken place and the costs were all right because they did not exceed the budget.

 

The court said the trip, "for professional research," had been approved with "strict scrutiny." It justified the officials' sightseeing as trips to attractions along their scheduled routes.

 

According to the government Website, Guangdong has cut its budget for overseas business trips by government officials by 20 percent.

 

(Shanghai Daily June 17, 2009)