Former brokerage executive Shi Xue was given the death sentence with a two-year probation on Friday for fraud and theft involving 26 billion yuan ($3.8 billion), the Hainan Daily reported on Tuesday.
The Hainan provincial high people's court found that Shi had embezzled 260 million yuan, the largest amount for a single defendant in an embezzlement case in China, while serving as president of the now-defunct Dalian Securities Co and head of Hainan Huayin International Trust and Investment Corp since the beginning of 1990s.
The 45-year-old was also charged with forging contracts, stealing company profits and illegally gathering 2.4 billion yuan in deposits from clients.
Shi was arrested in September 2002, but the initial verdict was not announced until Jan 8 of this year, when the intermediate people's court in Haikou, capital of Hainan, announced the death sentence with a two-year probation and confiscated his personal property.
Shi's accomplice Liang Yong, director of the Beijing Liyang Real Estate Development Co Ltd and the Beijing Tianhai Real Estate Development Co Ltd, was given a life sentence for collaborating with Shi to steal more than 17 million yuan and embezzle more than 10 million yuan from Dalian Securities.
After the first sentence, both defendants appealed to a higher court, while the prosecutors' office appealed against the leniency of the sentence.
The high court heard the appeals on July 8 and upheld the original sentence.
Shi's case was the most critical of six financial certificate fraud cases jointly conducted by a dozen financial institutions uncovered by the central disciplinary and judicial authorities in March 2002.
Sources said the amounts involved made it one of the biggest cases since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
In February, Xia Dingjun, another defendant in Shi's case, was also given death sentence with a two-year probation.
Xia's final sentence is yet to be announced.
Hong Daode, a criminal procedure law professor with Chinese University of Political Science and Law, said the sentences represented the spirit of current criminal policy.
"The country is applying fewer death sentences with immediate execution, especially in cases of economic crime," Hong told China Daily, adding that the country was integrating further with the global trend.
"The aim of judiciary punishment is to prevent crimes and deter the factors threatening social security, instead of killing people."