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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 June, 2004, 17:28 GMT 18:28 UK
Chinese magnate given jail term
Zhou Zhengyi
Some say the sentence is too light
China's 11th richest businessman Zhou Zhengyi has been given a three-year jail sentence for stock market fraud, Xinhua news agency has reported.

The punishment is considered to be light - which has given rise to speculation that Zhou has helped the authorities with other investigations.

The trial has thrown official corruption into focus, although the hearing was held in secrecy.

The death penalty has been meted out in other corruption cases in the country.

'Bad back'

A representative of a party of Shanghai people who are in dispute with Zhou described the short sentence as "ridiculous".

Independent risk analyst in China Peter Humphrey said it was "quite remarkable" that the property magnate had received such a short term.

"He quite probably assisted the authorities with certain investigative matters," he added.

Zhou was arrested in May of last year after a probe into loans he procured from Bank of China worth 2bn yuan ($242m:132m).

He was said to be taking news of his sentence well.

"His spirits are quite good but he is suffering from a sore back," his lawyer Tao Wuping said.

Zhou was once the owner of a snack-shop, but soon became part of China's celebrity set.

He is one of a number of high-flying businessmen who made their fortunes in the 1990s but since have been investigated by the government.

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