There must be some Americans who have wondered whether Bernard Madoff deserved the death penalty. What is almost certain is that if he was Chinese, he would have got it.
That is not conjecture: the Beijing Municipal Higher People’s Court recently sentenced a member of the securities industry to death and ordered his “immediate execution”.
Yang Yanming, who worked as a general manager for Galaxy Securities, embezzled client funds worth Rmb80 million. This was his fourth time in court, having pushed for retrials, since his case first came to light in April 2004.
According to the Time Weekly, when Yang’s death sentence was handed down late last month, “he looked calm and as the words came out of the judge’s mouth he even smiled to his relatives.”
Yang is certainly an enigmatic character, and he will likely go to the gallows (so to speak) with mystery still surrounding his case. That’s because of the Rmb80 million ($11.7 million) he stole, only Rmb25 million has been accounted for. One reason his case has been so drawn out is that prosecutors had hoped he would collapse under repeated interrogation, and explain where they could find the rest.
The suspicion is that it may have been given to someone as a bribe. Whenever Yang was asked he would just reply: “I cannot clearly remember.” And he was resilient: those who questioned him told Time Weekly that it was “very tiring to interrogate Yang”.
In the final stages of his most recent trial he seemed to be weakening, admitting under cross examination that he had handed the funds to someone else. But when asked who, he returned to his former reticence and said “I don’t know.” This was the first time he admitted the missing Rmb55 million was used as a bribe.
There was nothing about Yang’s history that marked him out as a future criminal. Born in 1958 to a well-off family, he entered Shenyang Agricultural University and joined Agricultural Bank of China. Showing promise, he was sent in the late 1990s to Shenzhen to study the workings of the securities business. During that period he worked on some big trades and gained a reputation as someone who understood the market.
In 1998 he was appointed general manager for the Beijing Wangjing West Garden branch of China Galaxy Securities. At this time many securities companies kept clients funds in their own accounts – in spite of regulations that said they should be segregated.
Yang too set up his own accounts, and had client cash transferred to them until early 2004, when the extent of the fraud became clear. Yang told his superior that Rmb50-60 million of the misapproptiated funds could not be returned – without explaining why. He then divorced his wife of 20 years and made an unsuccessful suicide bid.
According to those who worked with him, Yang was a man of few words and relatively simple tastes. Prosecutors tried and failed to find evidence of monies being used for gambling or other vices. But Yang’s motivations remain as hidden as the remainder of his loot.
The timing of his trial is pertinent, though. News also emerged this week that Galaxy’s former boss, Xiao Shiqing has been detained in connection with graft.
Also being investigated for bribery is Lei Bo, the boss of Sinolink Securities. The securities industry does not seem to be a place for the faint-hearted.
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