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Officials jailed over Shanghai inferno

08-03-2011 16:22 BJT

SHANGHAI - A district official in charge of construction was sentenced to 16 years in jail on Tuesday in connection with a fire in a high-rise block of flats that claimed the lives of 58 people and injured 71 others in Shanghai last year.

Gao Weizhong, former director of the construction and transport committee in Jing'an district, and colleagues Yao Yaming, Zhou Jianmin and Zhang Quan were the most high-profile of the 26 defendants sentenced at Shanghai No 2 Intermediate People's Court.

They were earlier found guilty of taking bribes, misusing their authority and causing a fire in the 28-story residential building in downtown Shanghai on Nov 15.

All four were given prison terms between five and 16 years and must hand over thousands of yuan they received in kickbacks.

Investigations into the blaze revealed that two unlicensed welders started the fire when they accidentally ignited nylon netting covering scaffolding while renovating the building's exterior.

Shanghai Jiayi Decoration Company was found responsible because it was carrying out work it was not qualified to do.

More than 1,600 people, including Shanghai officials, media crews and residents attended the sentencing.

Gao, 55, was given 16 years in prison and was ordered to pay 30,000 yuan ($4,660) for illegally permitting a decoration company to undertake renovation of the building and allowing the work to be conducted away from the supervision of construction authorities.

Judges heard earlier that construction companies and other businesses had paid Gao 121,000 yuan in bribes between 2004 and 2010 in exchange for lucrative projects.

Relatives of the victims reacted angrily to the sentences, suggesting that they were too lenient.

"The sentences given, especially to Gao, who indirectly killed 58 people, are unfair," said Wang Hong, whose mother and wife perished in the blaze. He was among 40 relatives in court on Tuesday.

Twenty-two other suspects, including managers of the construction, decoration and construction supervising companies and unlicensed welders, also received sentences on Tuesday.

Huang Peixin, a former legal representative and general manager of Shanghai Jiayi Decoration Company, was sentenced to 16 years in jail and ordered to pay 60,000 yuan for negligence causing a serious accident and taking bribes.

Ma Yibang, the deputy manager of the company, was sentenced to 15 years and six months in jail and ordered to pay 70,000 yuan for negligence and taking bribes.

Wang Hong said he and the families of other victims now plan to sue the construction and transport committees of the Jing'an district, the police and the fire department.

The two unlicensed welders received suspended sentences.

Wu Guolue, charged with negligence causing serious accident, was sentenced to one year in jail with a two-year reprieve and Wang Yongliang was exempted from criminal punishment.


Editor:Yang Jie |Source: China Daily

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