Chen Yihan (陈宜涵), ex-head of the railway ministry’s publicity department, recently was investigated for the sky-high cost of a 5-minute long crappy film to promote Chinese railways. Reportedly, at least 10 million yuan in cash and nine property ownership certificates were found in her home, which also brought down her husband Yang Ruiyang (刘瑞扬), who is an official with higher rank in the Ministry of Railways.
The expensive film scandal was exposed in the early July when China’s National Audit Office released an auditing report of the railway ministry’s annual budget performance and other financial income and expenditure, showing that the Ministry had invested as high as 18.50 million yuan in producing its promotional film between 2009 and 2010, under the circumstance that the Ministry did not follow public bidding regulations.
Director Zhang Yimou was targeted in the beginning as the promo film shows his name as the director. He was criticized for pocketing huge cash from the Ministry of Railways for such a cheap quality film.
But Zhang later responded that he did not sign any contract with the Ministry directly, but the Beijing New Moment Film and TV Culture Development Company who found him for the film, and he only took 2.5 million yuan after taxes from the deal.
Zhang repeated that he was only involved in giving suggestions, and asked not to be credited as the film’s director, which was written in the contract too. He also added that he was astonished to find that the deal was in violation of the public bidding regulations and he is willing to cooperate with investigations from the relevant authorities.
The response of the famous director suggests that millions of yuan could have been secretly taken as kickbacks during the film production.
According to Xinhua News Agency, the initial investigation showed that the ministry’s audio and video department transferred around 14 million yuan in total to the Beijing New Moment instead of the contracted 18.5 million yuan, leaving four million yuan missing.
Then after myriad layers of “exploitation”, the company still paid extravagantly 2.5 million yuan after taxes to the expensive director Zhang Yimou for the short film, which was said to be worth less than several hundred thousand yuan in the circle.