Suspects of China's largest bank theft go on trial

Updated: 2007-07-24 20:38

SHIJIAZHUANG -- Five suspects related to a major bank theft case in northern China's Hebei Province went on trial in a local court on Tuesday.

Five suspects, including Ren Xiaofeng, 34 and Ma Xiangjing, 37, two major suspects and former vault managers of the Handan branch of the Agricultural Bank of China (ABC), have been tried in the Handan Intermediate People's Court, said Han Yuanheng, publicity director of the Hebei provincial higher court.

The court heard that in October last year, Ren contrived with Zhao Xuenan and Zhang Qiang, both employed to watch the vault, and managed to embezzle 200,000 yuan (26,300 U.S. dollars) from the vault.

The money was bet on the lottery, but Ren later replaced the missing fund after he won a lottery prize, the court was told.

From March 16 to April 14 this year, Ren collaborated with Ma, who replaced Zhang Qiang as a bank employee, and managed to embezzle another 50.95 million yuan (about 6.7 million U.S. dollars) of bank notes from the vault. On April 14 alone, the two heisted 18 million yuan of notes.

The Handan People's Procuratorate charged Ren and Ma with embezzlement and charged Zhao and Zhang with misappropriation of public funds.

The procuratorate also prosecuted Song Changhai for harboring Ma when he was on the run.

The theft, dubbed the country's largest on record, was reported to police on April 16 by the Handan branch of the Agricultural Bank of China (ABC), after the bank found millions of yuan had gone missing.

The Public Security Ministry placed Ren and Ma, two major suspects, on its most wanted list.

Police arrested Ma in Beijing on April 18, and Ren in a rented house in Liangyungang, a coastal city in the eastern Jiangsu Province a day later. Police said they retrieved about 5.50 million yuan and found that about 45.35 million yuan had been squandered on the lottery.

Five bank officials, including Deng Zhenguo, vice president of ABC's Hebei Province branch, and four officials in ABC's branch in Handan city, have been sacked.

The court did not immediately announce the verdict.

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