Monday, June 19, 2006

On Oct. 2, 2001, three junior Bank of China managers from the southern Chinese province of Guangdong boarded a private jet in Vancouver for a flight to Las Vegas. One of the bankers, Xu Chaofan, was in a generous mood. He tipped the flight operator more than $1,200, according to evidence that Bank of China later presented in a Hong Kong court. The bank testified that Xu then lost $2,368,400 on the tables at the Caesar's Palace and Paris casinos.

For a man on a modest salary, this should have been a heavy financial blow. At the time, Xu and his colleagues, Yu Zhendong and Xu Guojun, were earning about $925 a month.

However, court records in Hong Kong and the United States suggest that this was but a minor setback for the three bankers. They are accused of conspiring to embezzle at least $485 million from Bank of China's branch at Kaiping, a small city in the booming Pearl River Delta, before fleeing overseas. Yu has been convicted in the United States and repatriated to China, where he is serving a 12-year prison sentence