Chengdu lawyer embezzles 1 million yuan
A lawyer found guilty of embezzling more than 1 million yuan (US$120,000) in public funds was sentenced to a 13-year term in jail by the Chengdu Intermediate People's Court in the capital city of Southwest China's Sichuan Province.
This is the largest reported amount ever embezzled by a lawyer in the country, said court officials.
Xie Zhiwei, the 43-year-old lawyer, was an employee of the Sichuan Investment Group Co Ltd. He first began handling the company's legal affairs in 1999.
In May 2001, Xie set up the Gaoding Law Office with two friends and became its director. Two months later, the Sichuan Investment Group Co Ltd, a major company in Sichuan and Xie's former employer, decided to set up a law office since its business was expanding and its Policy and Regulation Research Office had difficulty handling all its legal business.
Xie suggested that the company purchase his law office. His proposal was approved in January 2002. After gaining control of the law office, the company named Xie its director in March 2002.
Standard practice dictates that a client signs a contract with a law office when entrusting it to handle its legal affairs. It pays the office after signing the agreement.
However, when the Gaoding Law Office became part of the Sichuan Investment Group Co Ltd, the latter did not sign a contract with the office. Instead, the law office applied directly for payment from the company on a case-by-case basis. This arrangement was allegedly used by Xie to exaggerate costs and request funds for non-existent legal costs.
On May 19, 2003, a whistle-blower reported to the Jinjiang District People's Procuratorate in Chengdu that Xie had transferred 760,000 yuan (US$98,000) to a real estate company. The whistle-blower suspected that the money might have been acquired illegally. The same day, Xie was questioned in the procuratorate and detained the next day.
Investigation showed that Xie allegedly embezzled 1.1 million yuan (US$125,000) during a period of more than one year as director of the law office. Almost all the embezzled funds had been paid by the Sichuan Investment Group Co Ltd to the law office as legal costs at the request of Xie, said Zeng Meiling, an official with the Jinjiang District People's Procuratorate.
Many of the withdrawals were requested for non-existent legal costs , Zeng said.
In January 2003, the Sichuan Investment Group Co Ltd asked Xie to work on a deal involving one of its subordinate firms. The legal cost was only 600 yuan (US$72), but Xie used a forged invoice to reimburse the law office 367,200 yuan (US$44,350), she said.