Page last updated at 01:39 GMT, Thursday, 7 May 2009 02:39 UK

US jails China bankers for fraud

US dollars (generic)
The group created an elaborate network to launder the money

Two former Bank of China managers and their wives have been given lengthy jail sentences in the United States for stealing $485m (£320m).

Xu Choafan, Xu Guojun, Kuang Wan Fang and Yu Ying Yi had also been convicted of passport fraud and of laundering the money through banks and casinos.

The Las Vegas court also ordered the four to pay back $482m.

Prosecutors said the convictions showed foreign nationals could not "live off their ill-gotten gains in the US".

Xu Chaofan and Xu Guojun were sentenced to 25 and 22 years respectively while their wives Kuang Wan Fang and Yu Ying Yi to eight years each.

The charges against the four included monetary transactions with stolen money, transportation of stolen money, passport fraud and visa fraud.

The court heard how, beginning in 1991, the men had masterminded an elaborate scheme to embezzle hundreds of thousands of dollars over a 13-year period.

They laundered the money through false corporations and personal accounts in Hong Kong, Canada and the US, where they intended to emigrate.

Prosecutors said the group had carried out "a significant number of transactions" at Las Vegas casinos, including placing bets of up to $80,000.

They had also obtained false identities and entered into sham marriages with US citizens to enable them to settle in the country, said federal officials.

They were eventually arrested in 2004 and were found guilty in August 2008.

Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer thanked federal agents and prosecutors for their "tireless effort" in uncovering the conspiracy.

"We will hold fully accountable those foreign nationals who abuse the financial systems of their home countries and who then, by fraudulent means, seek to live richly off their ill-gotten gains in the United States," he said.

A third manager, Yu Zhengdong, had pleaded guilty and cooperated with investigators. He was later jailed in China.

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