China / Society

Officers investigated over cover-ups that harm nature

By Zhang Yan (China Daily) Updated: 2015-06-17 07:49

Law enforcement officers involved in aiding or covering up environmental crimes will come under increasing scrutiny from prosecutors, the top prosecuting agency said on Tuesday.

Dereliction of duty and malpractice in ecological and environmental protection have caused 15 deaths and 1.3 billion yuan ($209 million) in economic losses since 2014, according to the Supreme People's Procuratorate.

"To seek huge benefits and enhance GDP performance, some local officials and law enforcement officers have abused their power to cover up such crimes or reduced lawbreakers' punishment," said Li Zhongcheng, a senior official at the SPP's malfeasance and infringement investigation department.

From January 2014 to April this year, national prosecutors investigated 581 law enforcement officers accused of abusing their power to protect environmental lawbreakers or helping them cover up their crimes, an SPP report said.

Arrest warrants for 10,084 suspects accused of harming the environment during that period detailed crimes such as illegal mining and tree cutting, and discharging poisonous and harmful pollutants.

Most of the officers investigated worked in environmental protection, forestry, water conservation and public security bureaus. They are accused of accepting bribes, not reporting crimes and reducing lawbreakers' punishments, said Lyu Hongtao, deputy director at the SPP's civil and administration investigation department.

In January, national prosecuting departments began a two-year campaign targeting illegal acts that harm the environment and bringing officers involved in such misconduct to justice, Lyu said.

To date, the SPP, the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Environmental Protection have supervised 12 major cases involving the illegal disposal of large quantities of hazardous waste, detaining law enforcement officers who tried to cover up the crimes.

"Some officers neglected their duties to allow polluting emissions or committed misconduct to approve polluting projects," said Liu Huiling, a senior official at the SPP's investigation and supervision department.

Some colluded with the suspects, accepting bribes to aid pollution projects, reducing punishments and canceling or reducing sewage charges and fines, she said.

"Serious environmental damage caused by such crimes can't be repaired in the short term," said Li, of the malfeasance department.

Suspects in serious environmental crimes will be prosecuted in a timely manner, and prosecutors will order them to immediately stop the misconduct and repair the environment or make compensation to reduce economic losses, Li said.

Li said prosecutors also want to encourage the public to report environmental harm.

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