Beijing: Chinese prosecutors have arrested 12 women officials for accepting beauty parlour gift cards as bribes and writing them off as expenses, state media reported on Thursday.
Over the last year, the prosecutors arrested the women officials, including a bureaucrat, while investigating the gift cards scam probe launched following tip off provided by an anonymous letter.
"When those female officials were caught, they looked gorgeous and young. However, when the prosecutors office staff visited them later in jail, they looked old and gray," Wu Min, a media officer of The First Branch of Beijing Municipal People`s Procuratorate told state-run Global Times newspaper.
"Most of the female officials were in their late 40s or 50s - they wanted to grasp the tail end of their youth," she said.
Wu said that corruption cases previously centred on money, but now the focus has been expanded, with beauty parlours just being one area.
All corrupt officials like money, she said, but beyond that personal desire determines what gifts they receive.
"For instance, if some officials like houses, they will have several villas. If they like mistress, they can support several. The same goes for luxury cars, watches and so on," Wu said.
Wu said that the officials arrested either received cards from others, or purchased them using office funds, handing in fake receipts for meeting fees or office fees.
For example one official spent 3.99 million yuan (USD 640,000) over five years on beauty parlours by faking the receipts, and Yang Ping, an official from Municipal Finance Bureau, received gift cards worth 192,000 yuan, said prosecutors.
Gift cards are convenient, hard to trace, and less conspicuous than carrying large amounts of cash. In addition, beauty cards can easily be written off as business expenses.
A staff surnamed Yu working in Xuedan Female Fitness Club said that they sell cards starting from 1,000 yuan. Their services include hairdressing and facials.
Wu noted that the root of the corruption is in the flaws in management and organisational systems.
"The auditing and the accounting of the unit should check every receipt carefully and make people provide details of how the money is spent," she said.