(Bloomberg) -- A Beijing court has sentenced the owner of the firm behind China’s biggest online lending fraud to life in prison.
Ding Ning, the chairman of Yucheng Group, was also fined 100 million yuan ($15 million) for fundraising fraud, smuggling precious metals, and owning guns illegally, according to a judgment handed down by the Beijing First Intermediate People’s Court on Tuesday.
Yucheng ultimately controls the Ezubo platform, which authorities allege had defrauded 900,000 people out of more than $7.6 billion. One other Yucheng executive was also jailed for life, while 24 were given jail terms of between three to 15 years.
Ding admitted on state television early last year that Ezubo -- which means easy-to-lease -- attracted money from investors by offering high interest rates. Almost 95 percent of the investment projects listed on the platform didn’t exist, and it ran a Ponzi scheme to pay off some investors. Authorities launched an investigation in December 2015 after finding signs of tight cash flow, and indications that executives had started to move funds and destroy evidence.
Ezubo was the biggest among a series of similar cases that prompted tighter regulation of China’s Internet finance industry last year. Policymakers imposed limits on peer-to-peer lending, and barred platforms from taking public deposits or selling wealth-management products.
The court also found Ding and Yucheng International Holdings Group guilty of smuggling precious metals, owning weapons and crossing borders illegally. Yucheng International, an affiliate of Yucheng Group, was fined 1.8 billion yuan, according to the judgment. Police are still trying to recoup some losses for investors, it said.
With assistance from Jun Luo, Russell Ward