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Page last updated at 12:29 GMT, Saturday, 10 January 2009

China officials 'lost millions'

Map of Guangdong

Officials from China's southern Guangdong province are reported to have gambled away more than $3m (2m) of public money in recent years.

Chinese media reports said more than 50 officials had been investigated and six had been jailed or punished.

The officials lost the money gambling at casinos in Macau, on cruise ships off Hong Kong, and betting on football matches, reports said.

President Hu Jintao has said battling corruption is a key priority.

The heaviest sentence was given to Wu Xingkui, the Communist Party of China (CPC) number two in the town of Yunfu.

Mr Wu was handed a four-year jail term for embezzling large sums of public money to finance his gambling habit, the state-run China Daily newspaper reported.

The paper said he was found guilty of losing 520,000 yuan ($76,000) on soccer bets and 70,000 yuan playing mahjong, in addition to thousands of yuan of public money while on a cruise in Hong Kong on 1 January 2004.

Ironically, Mr Wu had carried out several operations against gambling, pornography and drugs.

Several other CPC party officials were also handed jail terms, expelled from the party, or put on probation in what should be a "clear warning" to all officials, a spokesman for the discipline commission told the China Daily.

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