Chinese tycoon on Forbes rich list sentenced to life in prison

A Chinese tycoon who was the youngest person on the 400-member Forbes China Rich List last year was sentenced to life in prison on Friday for fraud involving millions of dollars, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

Zhou Yiming, 32, "forged financial reports in August 2002 to borrow 380 million yuan (US$48 million, Ђ38 million) from three banks," Xinhua said.

Zhou then used the money to acquire a 28 percent stake in Sichuan Mingxing Electric, a major supplier of water, electricity and gas to 3.8 million residents in the southwestern province of Sichuan, Xinhua said.

In sentencing, the Suining Intermediate People's Court said Zhou began to siphon capital from the company after he gained control. He acquired almost US$69 million with the help of several accomplices, Xinhua said without elaborating.

The sentence also confiscated Zhou's property, Xinhua said.

Zhou plans to appeal the sentence, the agency said.

The richest person on this year's China list compiled by the New York-based Forbes business magazine is Wong Kwong-yu, 37, founder of Gome Appliances.

A quarter of those on the list are under 40, reflecting a surge in the past decade of new businesses as retail, Internet and real estate companies sprang up to serve a burgeoning consumer market.

Some of the country's richest businesspeople however are ensnared in scandals, including Wong, who was reportedly under investigation for illegal loans, reports AP.

The Chinese business magazine Caijing noted that No. 16 on last year's Forbes list, Shanghai developer Zhang Rongkun, dropped off the list this year after his arrest in a corruption investigation and a plunge in his company's share price.

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