A Beijing court yesterday sentenced three former managers of a state-owned company to prison terms ranging from 14 years to life for embezzling company funds. The Beijing No 2 Intermediate People's Court sentenced Zou Xiuhai to life for his part in the embezzlement of more than 248 million yuan (HK$233 million) in less than two years from the summer of 1997. Co-defendants Yang San and Liu Mei were jailed for 14 and 20 years respectively. Zou, 40, is a former deputy manager of Beijing Huarun Ruichen Import and Export Company. Liu, 58, was Zou's boss and Yang was a department manager. China News Service yesterday reported that 116 million yuan had been recovered but the remaining money was unaccounted for. A report in yesterday's Beijing Morning Post said Zou's wife had fled the country since the embezzlement case was uncovered two years ago. A man surnamed Zhang and identified as Zou's partner in Shenzhen had also been arrested and was awaiting trial. Both reports said the trio cheated the company in 1998 by forging four letters of credit worth 219 million yuan. They cashed the letters in Hong Kong and wired the money to a private company in Shenzhen to invest in futures markets. The trio suffered substantial losses in the investments. The scam was uncovered in late 1998 when Huarun Ruichen carried out an audit. Initial examinations failed to unearth concrete evidence against Zou. The newspaper said Zou refused to co-operate with investigators. After months of inquiries, the auditors discovered that contracts attached to the letters of credit were forged. Later investigations found that the three men were also responsible for the loss of 1.64 million yuan in May 1998. The money - belonging to Huarun Ruichen - was channelled by them to a private company and was unaccounted for. The court also found Liu and Yang guilty of accepting two cars as bribes when they were company managers.