BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese court on Friday (Aug 4) convicted three employees of fugitive billionaire Guo Wengui, who has been locked in a high-stakes political feud with the ruling Communist Party, including the businessman's niece.
The Kaifeng Intermediate People's Court, in central Henan province, also fined Henan Yuda, a real estate company owned by Guo, 150 million yuan (US$22.32 million) for fraudulently obtaining loans worth hundreds of millions of dollars from China Guangfa Bank, Zhongyuan Bank, Industrial Bank and others.
Two of the employees, Zhang Xincheng and the niece, Guo Lijie, were jailed for two years and 18 months respectively, while the third, Xiao Yanling, was found guilty but exempted from criminal penalty, the state-run Xinhua news agency said.
Guo's sentence was suspended for two years.
In a trial held last month, the three had admitted to falsifying contracts with fake shell companies at Guo's direction to fraudulently obtain loans totalling 1.495 billion yuan.
Guo, who now lives in New York having left China in 2014, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.
"This is entirely a case of fabricating evidence (against me) to make false charges," he said in an online video blog on Thursday.
The case mirrors that of a trial in the northeastern city of Dalian involving another of Guo's companies and is the latest legal salvo in a sustained Chinese government effort to discredit and tighten pressure on Guo.
Guo has emerged as a political threat to the Chinese government in a sensitive year after unleashing a deluge of corruption allegations against high-level Communist Party officials through Twitter posts and video blogs.
The businessman has made clear that he wants to disrupt a key five-yearly congress to be held this autumn.
Guo's online claims have also seen him sued for defamation in New York by conglomerate HNA Group, property developer SOHO China, journalist Hu Shuli and Chinese housing vice-minister Huang Yan.
Guo is the subject of an Interpol global "red notice"issued at Beijing's request in April.
China Guangfa Bank declined to comment. Zhongyuan Bank and Industrial Bank did not immediately respond to requests for comment.