China has arrested 80 people suspected of a series of tax frauds which have reportedly cost the government nearly $400m.
The suspects have been detained over the past eight months in a nationwide campaign against economic crimes, the state-owned China Daily said.
The crimes expanded from coastal
areas to central and western China and the danger is getting bigger
Economic crime official Zhang Tao
The paper said the authorities had smashed 10 criminal networks and seized about a 170,000 false tax receipts.
Despite the country-wide crackdown on tax fraud, the Deputy Director-General of China's Economic Crime Investigation Department, Zhang Tao, was quoted as saying that the problem was spreading in China.
"During our investigation, the crimes expanded from coastal
areas to central and western China and the danger is getting bigger," he told the paper.
A long road
He said it would take a long time to rid the country of the problem.
China's Prime Minister, Zhu Rongji, said last year that rooting out wide-spread tax rebate fraud is essential if the country is to establish a stable economic order as it joins the World Trade Organisation.
China's costly crime
200 under investigation in Guangdong for export tax fraud
Former head of customs in Shenzhen on trial for tax fraud
Beijing businessman arrested for false tax receipt scam
Police estimate that the fake tax receipts cost China 3.3bn Yuan ($397).
The China Daily report did not say what the receipts were used for, but the BBC's Duncan Hewitt in Shanghai says companies which export, and individuals who buy houses can use such receipts to claim tax rebates.
Tax fraud is believed to be rampant in China.
At least six people have been sentenced to death in Guangdong province, China's biggest exporter, and about 200 others are under investigation, for their alleged role in a massive export tax fraud racket reported to have involved almost $4bn.
The former head of customs in the southern city of Shenzhen is also currently on trial in a similar case, and state media recently reported the arrest of a Beijing businessman who is alleged to have colluded with corrupt tax officials to obtain fake tax receipts worth more than $2bn.
In January 2000, police arrested at least 78 people and jailed 17 of them for involvement in Shanghai's biggest ever tax-related criminal case, involving 1.2bn Yuan ($145m) in fake value-added tax (VAT) invoices, according to the