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China: Tycoon Sentenced in Bribery Case

A Chinese court has sentenced a high-profile multi-millionaire to 18 years in prison for bribery and economic crimes. Yang Bin had been arrested shortly after being appointed by North Korea to head its proposed special economic zone on the Chinese border.

A court in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang convicted Yang Bin of fraud and bribery last month and on Monday ruled he would spend 18 years in prison. His family and lawyers say he will appeal the sentence.

At the time of his arrest in October, Yang headed Euro-Asia Agricultural holdings. He amassed a $900 million fortune selling orchids and developing property and was listed by Forbes Magazine as China's second-richest man in 2001.

Shortly before his arrest, Yang was named by North Korea to head a special economic zone in Sinuiju, along the border with China - which has now stalled. Yang was appointed to the job in part because of his skill in creating wealth.

Last year, Yang told journalists he appreciated his vast wealth because he started with nothing. He grew up working hard and wishing for good things in life, like the chance to eat meat.

Yang left China in 1987, and lived and worked in the Netherlands, obtaining asylum and becoming a Dutch citizen after the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters here in China. He eventually returned to the country of his birth where the 40-year old business tycoon prospered until he ran afoul of the law.

Yang is one of several vastly wealthy businessmen who face court action here in China's shifting economic, political, and legal environments. With its free market developing faster than its legal system to support it, China is trying now to better regulate its weak banking system, vulnerable fledgling stock market and tackle decades of official corruption.

Yang's case comes as Shanghai property tycoon Zhou Zhengyi, for example, is in detention on allegations that he illegally used bank loans to speculate on the stock market.