Shanghai district official sentenced to 16 years in prison over deadly high-rise fire

August 2nd, 2011 - 10:09 pm ICT by BNO News  

SHANGHAI, CHINA (BNO NEWS) — A district official in charge of construction was sentenced to 16 years in prison on Tuesday in connection with a massive fire that broke out at a skyscraper in the Chinese city of Shanghai last year, state-run media reported.

Gao Weizhong, the former director of the Construction and Transport Committee in Jing’an District, was convicted of abuse of authority and corruption. He had allegedly accepted bribes up to 121,000 yuan ($18,800) between 2004 and 2010 from construction companies and related businesses to arrange a number of projects, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

Gao was sentenced to 16 years in prison by the No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court of Shanghai Municipality, according to Xinhua, which said 25 other suspects were sentenced to shorter sentences. The other defendants include government officials involved in construction, managers of the construction, decoration and construction supervising companies and unlicensed welders.

It was not immediately known whether the defendants would appeal the sentencing.

The cause of the blaze in November 2010, which left 53 people killed and more than 70 others injured, was initially blamed on welding sparks which struck a scaffolding while the 28-story building was under renovation. But Chinese officials later said the fire was the result of a combination of illegal contracting, unqualified workers who were poorly supervised, and unsafe materials.

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