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Shady bankers get US jail terms

TWO former Bank of China managers and their wives have been sentenced to long prison terms in the United States and ordered to pay back hundreds of millions of dollars after they were convicted in a scheme that used US banks and casinos to launder more than US$485 million stolen from the bank.

The two men, Xu Chaofan and Xu Guojun, were sentenced on Wednesday in Washington to 25 and 22 years in prison, respectively. Their wives, Kuang Wanfang and Yu Yingyi, were each sentenced to eight years. All four were also sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay US$482 million in restitution.

They were convicted on August 29 by a federal jury in Las Vegas, Nevada, on charges of racketeering, money laundering, international transportation of stolen property and passport and visa fraud.

The former bankers laundered the stolen money through Hong Kong, Canada and the United States. They emigrated to the US with their wives by obtaining false identities and entered into "sham marriages" with US citizens, federal officials said in a statement.

They conducted "a significant number of transactions" with the stolen money through Las Vegas casinos, including bets that ranged from US$20,000 to US$80,000, authorities said.

"We will hold fully accountable those foreign nationals who abuse the financial systems of their home countries and who then, by fraudulent means, seek to live richly off their ill-gotten gains in the United States," said Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer. Authorities on the Chinese mainland and in Hong Kong assisted in the case.

Yu Zhendong, formerly the head of the bank's Kaiping City branch in Guangdong Province, pleaded guilty earlier to racketeering charges.

Yu collaborated with Xu Chaofan, Yu's predecessor, and Xu Guojun, a manager, in embezzling money from the bank. Yu was sentenced to 12 years in jail by a federal court in Las Vegas in 2004 for money laundering, entering the US with forged documents and immigration fraud.


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