Chinese Bankers, Wives Convicted in Bank Scam

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Two former Bank of China managers and their wives have been convicted of conspiracy charges in an elaborate, 13-year scheme to embezzle $485 million from a state-owned bank and launder the money in other countries.

Former bankers Xu Chaofan and Xu Guojun, and their wives, Kuang Wan Fang and Yu Ying Yi, were found guilty Friday in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas of racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and conspiracy to transport stolen money. The bankers also were convicted of visa fraud, and their wives were convicted of passport fraud.

The indictment also charged Kwong Wa Po, the brother of defendant Kuang Wan Fang, who remains a fugitive.

Federal prosecutors accused the five of participating in a racketeering conspiracy that began in 1991 and continued until October 2004, when the two former bank managers and their wives were arrested.

Yu Zhendong, another former manager who participated in the scheme, earlier pleaded guilty to racketeering charges and cooperated with the investigation. In 2004, U.S. officials handed him over to Chinese authorities under a promise he wouldn't be executed.

Prosecutors said the three former bankers used their posts at a Bank of China branch to approve phony loans and money transfers. They said the bankers tried to launder more than $3 million by making deposits at several Las Vegas casinos, which can operate like banks. The casinos were not accused of wrongdoing.

They said the bankers' wives helped launder the stolen money, entered the U.S. illegally, and received U.S. citizenship and passports through deceit.

During the trial, defense lawyers Mitchell Posin, representing Xu Chaofan, and Bret Whipple, representing Xu Guojun, characterized their clients as pawns in a new era of U.S.-Chinese legal cooperation. They attempted to challenge efforts to hold the two men to U.S. banking standards and laws.

Neither attorney immediately returned messages left Saturday seeking comment.

U.S. District Judge Philip Pro is scheduled to sentence the defendants Nov. 24.