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'White house director' on trial for corruption
By Wang Jingqiong (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-11-20 07:53

A former district chief that locals call "the Director in the White House" in Anhui province went on trial yesterday on charges of revenge and bribery.

Zhang Zhi'an, a former director of Yingquan district of Fuyang, was accused of getting revenge on Li Guofu by making up false charges against the man who later killed himself in a detention house.

The prosecution also accused Zhang of abusing power, and taking and asking for bribes 52 times involving 3.6 million yuan ($527,000). There was no verdict yesterday.

Zhang became a famous figure in 2007, known as the "White House director" after he spent 30 million yuan ($4.4 million) to build an office building that looks identical to the US White House. The decoration and furniture inside were luxurious, too.

Fuyang is a city where most people's monthly income is no more than 1,000 yuan ($150).

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Zhang's corruption and extravagancy aroused public anger. In August 2007, Xiao Hua, a secretary for the Fuyang government, intercepted a letter that reported Zhang as being guilty of bribery, making money out of appointments, and abusing power.

The secretary gave the letter to Zhang.

Zhang believed that the letter was written by Li Guofu, a man who formerly worked under him, and Zhang decided to take revenge.

On Aug 22, 2007, Zhang wrote a letter containing false accusations of Li's misbehaviors, including embezzlement, taking bribes, and using officials' power to help his children find jobs. He sent the letter, as if it were written by an anonymous citizen, to local police, the procuratorate, the court and himself.

He then put pressure on local police to investigate Li's case, asking the director of the local police bureau to make sure Li would be prosecuted.

On Sept 7, 2007, Li was arrested and detained at Fuyang detention house. Zhang then interrogated Li about his alleged corruption activities, and forced Li to confess to Zhang after Zhang threatened his family. In March 2008, after more than five months in the detention house, Li died in the prison hospital of Anhui province. The official report said he hanged himself.

According to Li's family, Li lost his eyesight before he died.

The unnatural death of Li gained attention from the public and media. In July 2008, the Anhui procuratorate decided to investigate the case, and Zhang was prosecuted in December 2008.

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