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Chinese chauffeurs and their ‘invisible income’


Beijing : Chauffeurs of top Chinese government officials are becoming involved in illegal transactions as one of them says “many people would come to me with gifts or bribes in a bid to network with my boss”, a media report said.

More chauffeurs have become involved in corruption or taking bribes by taking advantage of their close ties with the officials they serve, says the latest issue of Banyue Tan (Semi-monthly Talks) published by Xinhua news agency.

Despite the hardships that come with the job, a chauffeur brings home an “invisible income,” as well as a sense of entitlement resulting from ties with officials, Chen Yuejin, a chauffeur for a government official was quoted as saying by Global Times Monday.

Chen said he had three duties: fetching the official’s family, serving as a bridge to receive gifts or bribes for the official, and helping the official send gifts to higher authorities.

“I naturally became his private secretary if I did a good job. And then many people would come to me with gifts or bribes in a bid to network with my boss. It gave me a feeling that I was an official too,” he said.

But the illegal commitment brings not only benefits but trouble too.

Lü Weiqiang, a chauffeur for several government officials in Lishui in Zhejiang province, was sentenced to death for illegal fund-raising. He raised about 260 million yuan ($38 million) under the name of bidding and investing in foreign trade.

In another case, Wu Jun, a chauffeur of a deputy director of the Bureau of Land and Resources, was arrested in 2007 for receiving bribes of about 370,000 yuan ($54,202) and harbouring bribes for the director.

“The chauffeurs have no public power, but when their service to their boss goes far beyond driving, they may become their bosses’ crony and have a share of the power, which offers them an opportunity for corruption,” the report said.

“The excessive centralisation of power and loose supervision are the root cause of corruption,” said Chen Wentong, a professor from the Party School of the Communist Party of China.

However, it is “too early to label the chauffeurs a new corruptive force” before more research and surveys are carried out, he said.

According to government regulations, only ministerial-level officials are allowed to have chartered cars and chauffeurs. But in some regions, many local officials, even village directors, have exclusive cars, an expert said.