A Beijing court is expected to issue a verdict within the next few days in a high-profile embezzlement case involving a former principal at a top elementary school.
Wang Cuijuan, the former director of Zhongguancun No.3 Elementary School, and four other school officials were charged in Haidian District Court with unlawfully collecting and using school fees totaling 570,000 yuan (US$82,975), the Legal Daily reported on Sunday.
Wang was arrested in January and stood trial on August 5. She is accused of using the money to unlawfully pay for two overseas trips for several school officials and their family members in 2004 and 2006.
The court prosecutor said Wang engaged in corruption by taking advantage of her position to embezzle public funds.
The article said the embezzled funds were collected from students' parents as extra "sponsor fee." But Wang's attorneys said as the head of the school, she was legally entitled to use the school's funds. They also said Wang, who was a member of the school's decision-making board, received approval from two other board members to use the money for travel expenses. A third board member participated in the two overseas trips that Wang paid for with the fee, Wang's attorneys said.
Wang said she was entitled to arrange the overseas trips during vacation time for teachers as rewards for their outstanding performances and contributions to the school. The trips were incentives and common practices at other institutions, she said, according to the article.
Many parents dream of sending their children to Zhongguancun No.3 Elementary School, one of the most prominent schools in the Chinese capital. But the embezzlement charges have cast the school under a dark shadow, the article said. Many now question whether Wang engaged in any other wrongdoing at the school.
The court found that the funds that Wang had at her disposal exceeded 160 million yuan, the majority of which came from sponsor fees collected from students' parents, the article said.
The charge also has shed light on a larger trend across the nation, whereby parents are paying administrators fees to enroll their children in top schools, even though the practice is banned. Reports show that in some cases parents pay several tens of thousands yuan in enrollment fees to send their children to top-tier schools. But few of them receive receipts. With the lack of supervision over the collection of such funds, there has been a rise in education corruption cases, the report says.
On May 29, 2006, a former principal at a middle school in Wuhu, Anhui Province, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for reportedly embezzling several hundreds of thousand yuan he collected by charging rampant extra fees.--CRIENGLISH.com