BEIJING – Four Chinese men are accused of building an official-looking interrogation room where they posed as anti-corruption investigators and extracted a promise of a payment from a local official in return for dropping their phony investigation, an official newspaper said Tuesday.
The gang in the northeastern city of Suihua planned to scam as many officials as possible, but made just one attempt before apparently losing their nerve, the Legal Daily reported.
After snatching Zhang Wei, a manager in the city Agriculture Department, and his wife from their home, they blindfolded them, drove them to the interrogation room and obtained a promise of a 400,000 yuan ($63,000) payment after several hours of questioning.
However, after the couple alerted police, nobody appeared to collect the money, and one of the four turned himself in before police had time to make arrests. Three are now in custody and police are searching for the fourth.
An official with the city Agriculture Department's security bureau confirmed the report but declined to provide other details.
The interrogation room, complete with furniture, computers, cameras and official seals on the wall, was built by the four in an abandoned shopping center at a cost of 200,000 yuan ($32,000), the Legal Daily reported.
According to the newspaper, Zhang said he'd done nothing wrong but agreed to make the payment to "ensure his own personal safety."
The incident underscores the fear officials have of investigators, especially those from the Communist Party's corruption watchdog, the Central Committee for Discipline Inspection.
Thousands of officials have been questioned and more than 100 high-ranking bureaucrats and military officers have been charged in a sweeping anti-graft campaign launched two years ago by President Xi Jinping.