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Shanghai property tycoon gets 16 years in jail
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Shanghai property tycoon Zhou Zhengyi was sentenced to 16 years in jail on Friday, sources with the Shanghai Municipal No. 2 Intermediate People's Court said.

The source did not give more details.

The on-line edition of Caijing Magazine reported that Zhou was found guilty of five charges, including misappropriation of funds, bribery and forging VAT receipts.

Zhou's company was fined 3.35 million yuan, the report said.

It also said that Zhou himself did not express objections to the verdict, but his lawyer was inclined to lodge an appeal.

The source from the Shanghai court would not confirm the report.

Zhou, former president of Shanghai-based property firm Nongkai Development Group, was released from prison in May 2006 after completing a three-year sentence for fraud and manipulating the stock market. But five months later, in October, Zhou was detained as prosecutors investigated a Shanghai social security fund scandal.

Zhou appeared in court again late October this year on new charges of misappropriation of funds, bribery and forging VAT receipts.

Shanghai courts began to hear cases of officials involved in the social security fund scandal in June this year. The financial scandal was exposed to the public last year, with 3.7 billion yuan involved.

Investigators found the money had been illegally loaned, by a company of the municipal labor and social security bureau, to Shanghai Feidian Investment Development Co. Ltd, a company controlled by another business tycoon Zhang Rongkun, No. 16 on the Forbes China Rich List in 2005, who has also been arrested as part of the investigation into the misuse of the pension funds.

Zhang was the first person arrested amid the government's probe into the fund scandal, which also brought down a number of high-ranking officials including former Shanghai Party chief Chen Liangyu.

Zhou, born in 1961, also known as Chau Ching-ngai, started business as a teenager in a wonton noodle shop. In 2002, Forbes estimated Zhou's wealth at about 320 million U.S. dollars.

(Xinhua News Agency, November 30, 2007)

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