When corrupt Chinese oligarchs and politicians are unable to transfer millions in illegally obtained funds offshore they resort to the next best option: storing the money in the form of cold, hard cash stashed away inside their apartments. However, this is a rather risky proposition as one of them found out when investigators, along with a live-rolling media crew, showed up at his apartment where he had managed to conceal over 200 million yuan in cash.
As Shanghaist reports, the fact that the highest denomination of Chinese currency is the 100-yuan note has always created headaches for corrupt officials. In order to fit 200 million yuan ($31 million) into a single apartment, Wei Pengyuan was forced to resort to some creative interior design, removing all the furniture apart from a single bed, and filling the place with bags full of cash.
Wei, the former vice director of the National Energy Administration's coal department, was famously busted for corruption back in May of 2014. Investigators reported that they had discovered an inconceivable amount of money stashed inside his apartment, but footage of the flat had not been released until now.
In a 19-minute-long segment, Chinese state media took viewers on a tour of Wei's apartment and through his history of malfeasance. Throughout the flat, suitcases, cardboard boxes and bags of all sizes are found strewn around stuffed full of banknotes. Along with 134 million in yuan, Wei's stash also included US dollars, Hong Kong dollars, British pounds and Euros.
At the time of Wei's arrest, it was reported that investigators used 16 mechanical bill counters to count up all the cash, and four of the machines burned out from the herculean effort. In this latest expose, state media reports that it took 5 of these counting machines 14 hours to tabulate it all up, with only one casualty.
According to Sina, locals are stunned at the shear scale of governmental graft. Several papers estimated that the stash must weigh well over a ton.
To build up this kind of fortune, prosecutors say that Wei took in bribes from over 200 companies from 2000 to 2014. He was given a suspended death sentence on Monday.
The most amusing part in the report on Wei's life is that his colleagues had always believed him to be a modest and austere official. Everyday, Wei would ride a bike to and from work. What they didn't know was that Wei was in fact driving his Audi, parking nearby and then taking the foldable bicycle out of his trunk.
Wei isn't the only ex-official being shamed on state media, on Monday, an eight-part TV series "Always on the Road" began airing, featuring some of China's most notorious public officials taking to the screen to confess to their crimes in front of the nation. That series will wrap up next Monday, just in time for a four-day plenary session of the Central Committee, the last major meeting before a reshuffle of central party leadership next autumn.
If anything, we predict that reports such as this will spur even more aggressive transfer of local Chinese funds offshore - and certainly cash - and further accelerate "M&A" involving Chinese financial conglomerates and US acquisition targets.
Images via Sina