Two BOC managers convicted of money laundering in Vegas

AP , LAS VEGAS

Mon, Sep 01, 2008 - Page 5

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

Former bankers Xu Chaofan (�?Z) and Xu Guojun (�?T), and their wives, Kuang Wanfang (鄺婉芳) and Yu Yingyi (餘英怡), were found guilty on Friday in US District Court in Las Vegas of racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and conspiracy to transport stolen money. The bankers were also convicted of visa fraud, and their wives were convicted of passport fraud.

The indictment also charged Kwong Wapo (鄺華寶), the brother of defendant Kuang Wanfang, who remains a fugitive.

US 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, US 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 US$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 US illegally, and received US 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 US-Chinese legal cooperation. They attempted to challenge efforts to hold the two men to US banking standards and laws.

Neither attorney immediately returned messages left on Saturday seeking comment.

The judge is scheduled to sentence the defendants on Nov. 24.