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China jails 26 over US$7.6b Ponzi scheme
[BEIJING] Two senior executives of a collapsed peer-to-peer lender were sentenced to life in prison and 24 others punished over what has been called China's biggest-ever Ponzi scheme, state media reported Tuesday.
The company, Ezubao, reportedly swindled more than 900,000 investors out of US$7.6 billion, mainly between 2014 and 2015.
The brazenly luxurious lifestyles of top Ezubao bosses drew wide attention to the long-running case - one of several recent high-profile trials to shine a light on pervasive fraud and corrupt practices in the Chinese financial industry.
The company was alleged to have fabricated most of the projects on its website and paid old debts with money from new investors.
Ding Ning, head of Ezubao's parent company Yucheng Holdings, was sentenced by a Beijing court to life in prison for charges ranging from fraudulent fundraising to illegal possession of a gun, the People's Daily reported.
Another top corporate official, Ding Dian, also received a life sentence.
The court handed sentences to other defendants ranging from three to 15 years in prison, and levied fines including a 1.9 billion yuan (S$392 million) penalty on Yucheng.
Ding Ning was said by Chinese media to have given his company president a pink diamond ring and luxury villa in Singapore, while dressing his secretaries in designer brands such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci.
As authorities closed in, company executives were reported to have buried financial documents in the ground near corporate headquarters in the eastern province of Anhui. It took police 20 hours to dig them out with two excavators.