MAINLAND authorities have recovered just 182 million yuan of 510 million yuan (HK$477 million) skimmed from time deposits in one of China's biggest bank fraud cases. The arrest of five suspects came at the end of a 19-month probe in which detectives trekked across many provinces and then the United States. Most of the money came from accounts in the Bank of China's branch in Xingyang city, Henan province. Xinhua said an assistant manager at the bank, Chen Jianmin, and head of the Henan San Ren Enterprise Group Ren Chengjian were accused of fabricating documents to gain access to customers' fixed deposits. They and their accomplices went 'crazy' once the scam began. Xinhua said they had made 37 transactions which involved 510 million yuan. They had managed to pocket 347 million yuan and US$1.5 million (HK$11.6 million) but investigators have only recovered 182 million yuan. They believe the gang squandered the rest. Investigators discovered Chen, Ren and their accomplices had written down a lower amount in the bank's copy of a fixed deposit form. The customer was given a copy with the correct amount shown on it and the gang kept the difference. Chen was placed under house arrest by police when the investigation started on January 31 last year after the scandal was reported by the bank's branch in Zhengzhou city. But Ren had time to flee to the US, Xinhua said. Henan province mobilised massive resources, including the establishment of a special taskforce of handpicked Public Security Bureau officials from the province and Zhengzhou city. 'Investigators trekked over half of China and travelled to the US, tracking down the money and the culprits,' Xinhua said. It said the detectives who found Ren in the US had persuaded him to return in February. At least three others involved in the scam had been arrested. Financial officials are still determining whether any bank officials should be held responsible for failing to spot the scandal at an earlier stage. Beijing leaders have called for a concerted effort to stamp out corruption and irregularities in the financial system. Senior officials pointed out that serious cases of illegality or lack of discipline had threatened the stability and operation of the economy. Last week, a Shenzhen bank official was sentenced to death for taking bribes in exchange for diverting funds. Wang Junfeng, assistant branch manager of the Shekou branch of the China Construction Bank, was sentenced by the Intermediate People's Court in Shenzhen after police received an anonymous tip that he had been stealing from the bank. In the ensuing probe it was discovered Wang had received 2.3 million yuan in bribes in exchange for illegally diverting more than 2.3 billion yuan from the bank between 1993 and 1996. This year, Beijing leaders pressed criminal fraud charges against former senior executives of Shenzhen-listed Hainan Minyuan Modern Agricultural Development for massaging company accounts.