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Pyramid scheme founder gets 17 years in jail

By  ZHANG YI | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2018-12-14 13:44
[Photo/Official Weibo account of People's Daily]

Zhang Tianming, the mastermind behind Shanxinhui, a company that had led a pyramid scheme involving more than 100 billion yuan ($14.5 billion), was sentenced to 17 years in prison with a fine of 100 million yuan at a local court in Yongzhou, Hunan province, on Friday.

The other nine convicts received jail terms ranging from six months to 10 years with fines for organizing and leading pyramid activities, and their illegal gains were confiscated, according to the verdict from the Shuangpai County People's Court.

More than 5.98 million people nationwide participated in the scheme activities, with a total of 104.6 billion yuan involved, the verdict said.

Zhang, 42, founded Shenzhen Shanxinhui Culture Communication Co in the southern metropolis of Shenzhen, Guangdong province, in May 2013. He hired several people to set up a network on the internet for pyramid activities.

The convicts intentionally distorted the country's targeted policy to eradicate poverty under the guise of helping the poor and building a so-called "new economic ecological model". They enticed people to take part in pyramid sales by promising high returns and cheated them out of huge amounts of property, according to previous reports by the Xinhua News Agency.

While police were probing the case, Zhang incited more than 600 scheme members to protest in public places by pulling banners and shouting slogans on June 9 and 10, 2017, the court verdict said.

The company's pyramid activities had seriously disrupted the social and economic order, and Zhang's instigation behind the protests constitutes the crime of organizing people to disturb order at public places, according to the verdict.

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