Some spirit billions out of the country, buying up luxury villas abroad; one reportedly lavished wealth on 18 mistresses; another blew a quarter of a million dollars in a two-day gambling spree.
Chinese bureaucrats may have a grey image but their ability to amass - and spend - ill-gotten gains is eye-opening.
The extraordinary political scandal unfolding at the top of the party - the suspected murder of the Briton Neil Heywood by the wife of the top leader Bo Xilai - is unprecedented.
But the allegations of "serious disciplinary violations" by Bo himself, and of attempts by his spouse, Gu Kailai, to shift money overseas, have put an instantly recognisable and very powerful face on an endemic problem.
Corrupt officials smuggled 800bn yuan (£80bn) out of the country and around 17,000 people fled abroad between the mid-1990s and 2008, according to a report that China's central bank released last year, apparently unintentionally.