'House sister' held over false document charges

'House sister' held over false document charges

The woman dubbed China's "house sister" because of the number of properties she owned has been detained on charges of forging official documents, police said yesterday.

Police in Shenmu County said they arrested Gong Ai'ai on Monday.

Gong, until recently deputy head of the Shenmu Rural Commercial Bank, is suspected of misusing her authority to grant loans to mine operators in return for cash or shares which she then used to buy at least 45 properties.

Gong had three fake national identity cards, one from Beijing and two from the northwestern Shaanxi Province, where Shenmu is located, reports said.

Of the properties she purchased, 41 are in Beijing, where skyrocketing prices make it difficult for many ordinary Chinese families to afford their own home.

Not only is the woman's wealth stunning, but her ability to circumvent China's identity regulations, which allow each person only one identity card and number, suggests corruption among the police who issue the cards.

Local authorities have already detained four police officers on suspicion of helping Gong obtain her fake IDs, the Ministry of Public Security said last week.

That the money was poured into property has further inflamed public outrage, with speculation by the wealthy blamed for soaring house prices.

Yang Fengchun, a professor of government and management at Peking University, told The Associated Press that this "goes to show how state resources and public trust and authority have been excessively abused by those people. They behave as if the country were at their beck and call. Whatever they want, they get."

Gong is being held in Yulin City, which administers Shenmu, and faces up to 10 years in jail if found guilty.

Investigators discovered that she had quit her job in the government-owned bank last June to run her family business.

The board approved her resignation just last month, when an online post revealed she had more than 20 properties valued at about 1 billion yuan (US$159 million).

Gong wasn't a government official at the time but still held a post as a deputy to the Yulin People's Congress, the city's legislature, according to Xinhua news agency.

In an interview with China News Service on January 17, Gong said her wealth was from the family business, but she then disappeared from public view.

Beijing police confirmed last Thursday that Gong had 41 properties and that 10 had been seized because she bought them with a fake Beijing hukou, or residence permit, which was revoked on January 24.

An initial investigation found Gong had two identities - Gong Ai'ai and Gong Xianxia.

Later, it was revealed that Gong's former bank colleague, Yang Liping, owned 12 properties in Beijing under his wife's name, Gao Yin'e. She had three identities and residence permits.

Claims that real estate tycoon Pan Shiyi had conspired with them to launder money were denied by Pan on his microblog.

In another case, authorities in south China's Guangdong Province yesterday announced an official investigation into a senior policeman said to own 192 houses and have two national identity cards.

Zhao Haibin, a police officer in Lufeng City, acknowledged he had double IDs and had been a legal representative of a building materials company.

But he denied he had 192 houses as claimed by a whistleblower.

He said the properties had been jointly developed by his brother and others and later all been sold on.

Zhao claimed he was just a "supervisor" in the real estate projects.

As of yesterday, Zhao was still in his post as a member of the Party committee of Lufeng City's Public Security Bureau and deputy Party chief of a local town, Xinhua said.

Local businessman Huang Kunyi has claimed that Zhao had 192 houses registered under two identities.

Zhao had a real identity in Donghai Town in Lufeng, and a fake one in Zhuhai City's Xiangshou district under the name of Zhao Yong, which has been revoked, according to Xinhua.

"A police official openly had two IDs and used the other one to do business and cheat others. Why nobody probes the case?" the whistleblowing businessman said.

He claimed Zhao had properties in Lufeng, Zhuhai and Huizhou in Guangdong.

In online comments, many people said that Zhao's case must not end with the cancellation of his fake ID and that a thorough investigation should be conducted.

Back in October, Cai Bin, an urban management official in Guangzhou dubbed the "house uncle," was sacked after he was revealed to own 21 properties worth a total of 40 million yuan.

The latest member of the "house" family is Zhang Xiuting, an anti-corruption official in Heilongjiang Province.

Dubbed the "house brother," he and his wife Wang Hongjun are said to have 19 properties registered under their names.

Discipline authorities are investigating Zhang, focusing on the legality of the large number of homes he owns.

Zhang, a political commissar of the anti-corruption department in Xi'an District's prosecutors office, has left his post, publicity authorities in Mudanjiang told Xinhua.

Earlier this week, Zhang said that he divorced his wife in 1998 and that most of the properties belonged to her.

Five of the houses are registered under Zhang's name.

They include four which Zhang inherited from his mother.

His former wife owns 14 houses.

Zhang is the latest in a growing list of officials to be investigated on the grounds of possible corruption after their cases were exposed on the Internet by whistleblowers.

Several have been fired from their posts.