Police have detained the general manager of a Beijing department store and three associates after they ignored a court ruling to repay debt. The case reflects the increasing use of courts to recover debt and the widening repercussions of the excesses of the mainland's over-built retail sector. Police detained the Qiancun Department Store officials on Wednesday, in response to an order from Chaoyang District Court acting on behalf of 102 creditors owed money by the store, the Beijing Youth Daily reported yesterday. They can be held for 15 days. The court took up the case in December last year and has received applications by the creditors for repayment of 10 million yuan (about HK$9.3 million). In March, the court ordered four million yuan in assets to be set aside as collateral. However, the officials ignored the order and sold air conditioners and washing machines worth 800,000 yuan to pay wages owed to the staff, even though these items were included in the collateral. In addition, the court froze two company bank accounts and, on Wednesday, sealed a floor in the department store used by management. The detentions mark the latest episode in a saga of debt owed by the Beijing Qiancun store, one of seven set up nationwide by finance and property company Zhengzhou Asia Group. The group, owned by six shareholders, is based in Zhengzhou, capital of Henan. It expanded into department stores in 1996, just when growth in the national retail market was slowing down. Its Tianjin store has closed and the Beijing and Guangzhou stores are in financial difficulties. On October 31, the group was ordered by a court to sell part of a building next to its Beijing store, auctioning it for 42.18 million yuan. Separately, Everbright Bank is taking legal action against the group to recover two loans equalling 35 million yuan extended in October and November 1996. In another debt case, the Beijing Number One Intermediate Court on Wednesday completed transfer of the Beijing Olympic Hotel - in which a Hong Kong businessman has a 50 per cent stake - to a consortium of five banks after it failed to pay a debt of 5.7 billion yen (about HK$363.66 million). On October 27, the court ordered a management company to take over the hotel and run it while an audit was compiled of its assets. The audit was completed on Tuesday. Bank of China applied to the court for the seizure order after it failed to obtain repayment of the loan, signed in March 1987. The lenders were Bank of China and its Tokyo branch, Sakura Bank, Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank's Hong Kong branch and Mitsui Trust Bank. Li Kuangtsu, managing director of Hong Kong JiaXing China Investment and general manager until the seizure, is contesting the court ruling, saying it has no legal basis.