The former head of China Construction Bank Corp., Zhang Enzhao, was jailed
for 15 years on Friday after pleading guilty to taking bribes to arrange loans,
his lawyer said.
The verdict was handed down by
a court in Beijing, the latest in a long string of graft cases that have
embroiled Chinese lenders due to the cosy ties that have linked bankers,
businessmen and government officials.
Zhang abruptly resigned in June 2005 as chairman of Construction Bank, which
in October last year became the first of China's big four state-owned lenders to
sell shares to the public abroad. Its Hong Kong listing raised $9.2 billion.
Prosecutors accused Zhang of accepting 4.18 million yuan ($530,000) in
In a court appearance in September, he pleaded guilty but said the amount
involved was smaller, the Beijing News reported at the time.
A Caijing Magainze report said Zhang, 59, was calm and nodded when the
verdict was read in the court.
Lawyer Gao Zicheng told Reuters Zhang would serve his
sentence at Qincheng prison, a jail outside the capital.
Gao said he
thought the sentence was too harsh. He said he would discuss with Zhang on
Monday whether to lodge an appeal.
But the official Xinhua news agency
quoted the court as saying the jail term could have been longer had Zhang not
confessed some of his "undiscovered" crimes to investigators and the bribe money
not been recovered.
China's banking system has undergone profound changes
in recent years, but remains plagued by weaknesses ranging from poor levels of
corporate governance to inadequate risk controls.
The banking regulator
said in October that the financial sector had been hit by 724 cases of bank
fraud in the first nine months of the year, of which 194 involved at least 1
Chinese banks have been trying to offer incentives to
employees to ward off the temptation for fraud.
Construction Bank said
in a statement on Thursday that it was offering cash rewards of between 100,000 and 300,000 yuan
to star employees to hold them up as models for the