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Former Shanghai Tycoon Charged Again
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Former Shanghai tycoon, Zhou Zhengyi, has been charged with bribery and forging VAT (Value Added Tax) receipts just months after finishing a three-year prison sentence, local authorities said Sunday.

Zhou, former president of Shanghai-based property firm Nongkai Development Group, was released from prison in May after completing a three-year sentence for fraud and manipulating the stock market.

But five months later, in October, Zhou was detained as prosecutors found fresh evidence of crime and was he arrested by the municipal procuratorate on Sunday. A further investigation into his affairs is underway.

Zhou, 45, who started business as a teenager in a wonton noodle shop and graduated to number 11 on Forbes' list of the 100 richest mainlanders, was the majority shareholder of the Hong Kong-listed Shanghai Land Holdings and Shanghai Merchants Holdings. In 2002 Forbes estimated Zhou's wealth at US$320 million.

Also known as Chau Ching-ngai, he was convicted and sentenced at the Shanghai No. One Intermediate People's Court in June 2004 for falsifying registered capital reports and share price manipulation.

Zhou was sentenced to two years and six months for manipulating share prices and one year for falsifying registered capital reports. In total he was sentenced to three years in prison, according to the verdict of the Shanghai Number One Intermediate People's Court.

Nongkai Development Group was ordered to pay a total fine of 40 million yuan (US$5.12 million). This included 33 million yuan (US$4.23 million) for manipulating share prices and seven million yuan (US$0.89 million) for falsifying registered capital reports.

According to the verdict, from June 1999 to May 2003, Zhou was found manipulating stock prices by illegally buying and selling tradable shares in an engineering company in east China's Xuzhou city. He owned 95.93 percent of the company's corporate shares at the peak and there was a huge leap of 402 percent in the stock's price.

From October 1998 to April 2000 Zhou was also accused of fabricating Nongkai's paid-up capital from the original 100 million yuan (US$13 million) to 800 million yuan (US$102.5 million) with falsified capital surplus.

In 2002 the Nongkai group, with 4,000 employees, earned US$540 million in sales and paid US$12 million in taxes.

Nongkai has four holding companies listed in Shanghai and Hong Kong--the Hainiao Development Ltd., Yingxiong, Shanghai Merchant and Shanghai Land.

Over the past three years Nongkai's three companies have sold their shares or stopped trading in the stock market. Zhou and Nongkai hold 26 percent in shares of Hainiao.

Zhou's wife, Mao Yuping, was sentenced to 32 months in prison last April by the Hong Kong District Court on charges of conspiracy in the use of fraudulent letters of credit worth HK$49 million (US$6.3 million).

Mao, 43, was charged by the Independent Commission Against Corruption on 12 counts of conspiracy to defraud using letters of credit worth more than HK$49 million which were based on bogus business transactions.

Others involved in Zhou's case include Tang Haigen, brother of Zhou's sister-in-law. Tang, former president of Hainiao, played an important role in Zhou's business affairs.

Tang, a former member of the Shanghai municipal committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, was removed from the political advisory body last October after criminal investigations were launched into his affairs. Tang, 49, has been arrested on charges of embezzlement and bribery.

(Xinhua News Agency January 22, 2007)

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