A court in north China's Hebei Province on Wednesday upheld the death sentence given to two bank employees responsible for the country's largest ever bank theft involving 50.95 million yuan by a lower court in August.
The sentence was handed down by the Hebei Provincial Higher People's Court at the second-instance hearing in Handan, a city in southern Hebei.
Ren Xiaofeng, 34, and Ma Xiangjing, 37, who worked as vault managers at the Handan branch of the Agricultural Bank of China (ABC), were convicted of theft and were given death penalties at the Handan Municipal Intermediate People's Court after the first-instance hearing on Aug. 9.
Zhao Xuenan and Zhang Qiang, who joined Ren in embezzling 200,000 yuan in October last year, were sentenced to five years and two years in prison with a two-year reprieve.
Song Changhai was jailed for three years for harboring Ma when he was on the run.
Ren, Ma and Zhao lodged appeals after the sentence.
Court hearings found that in October last year Ren conspired with Zhao Xuenan and Zhang Qiang, who were both employed to guard the vault, to embezzle 200,000 yuan.
The money was spent on lottery tickets, but Ren later replaced the missing fund after he won a lottery prize.
From March 16 to April 14 this year, Ren collaborated with Ma, who replaced Zhang Qiang as a bank employee, and stole 50.95 million yuan in cash. On April 14, the two men walked out with 18 million yuan.
The theft was reported to police on April 16 by branch managers after they found millions of yuan had gone missing and the Public Security Ministry placed Ren and Ma on its most wanted list.
Police arrested Ma in Beijing on April 18 and Ren in a rented house in Lianyungang, a coastal city in Jiangsu Province a day later. Police said they retrieved about 5.50 million yuan and found that about 45.35 million yuan had been squandered on the lottery.
Five bank officials, including Deng Zhenguo, vice president of ABC's Hebei branch, and four officials in ABC's branch in Handan city, have been sacked.
"Ren and Ma's actions caused huge losses to the country and exerted a very negative impact on the society. Their crimes are extremely serious and the previous verdict is not inappropriate," Wednesday's verdict said.
The court also rejected Zhao's appeal on Wednesday.
The death sentence for Ren and Ma will be reported to the Supreme People's Court for approval, a spokesman of the Hebei court said.