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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 August 2007, 14:07 GMT 15:07 UK
Chinese bankers in lottery loss
By Chris Xia
BBC News

Chinese money
The bank workers hoped to secretly replace the money
Two Chinese bank workers have been sentenced to death for stealing nearly $7m (3.5m) from the bank's vault - and losing almost all of it on the lottery.

The theft, from the state-owned Agricultural Bank of China in the northern province of Hebei, is reported to be China's biggest ever.

The two men went on the run when their losses reached around $6m, but they were soon captured.

Three accomplices were given up to five years in jail.

Losing streak

It must have seemed like the perfect crime. Steal money from the vault, use it to win the lottery, replace the stolen cash and enjoy the rest of the winnings.

One of the conspirators, Ren Xiaofeng, had successfully carried out the same scam with a much smaller sum - just over $25,000 - earlier in the year.

He bought a winning ticket, replaced the money, and no-one was any the wiser.

This time, working with fellow vault employee Ma Xiangjing, the sums became much, much bigger.

Over the course of a month, they stole 51m yuan ($6.7m, 3.3m). But the lottery let them down, and they hit a losing streak that did not improve.

For the two men at the centre of this most unlucky crime, it seems there will now be no second chance.

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