Shenzhen businessman sentenced to life for $15.2 billion fraud

SHENZEN, Dec 9 – Zhou Shiping, chairman of Shenzhen Hongling Venture Capital Investment Co, has been sentenced to life imprisonment and lifetime deprivation of political rights for masterminding a fraudulent scheme that defrauded over 480,000 individuals out of 109 billion yuan ($15.2 billion).

The verdict, announced on Thursday by the Guangdong High People’s Court on its official WeChat account, marks the culmination of a years-long investigation into Hongling’s illegal activities. According to the court, Zhou and his associates used the company’s online platform to illegally absorb funds from investors between 2009 and 2021. These funds were then used to repay debts, cover operating costs, and line Zhou’s own pockets.

The court also sentenced 17 other individuals involved in the scheme to prison terms ranging from two years and six months to 11 years, along with fines. They were found guilty of fraudulent fundraising, illegal absorption of public deposits, and embezzlement of public funds.

Zhou’s actions caused significant financial losses and disrupted the financial order, prompting investigations and asset recovery efforts. The court noted that recovered funds would be returned to victims once the judgment takes effect, while Zhou would be held responsible for the remaining unrecovered assets.

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