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Former banker adjusts to mainland cell

Mark O'Neill

The turning point in the life of Yu Zhendong came in a coffee shop in his native Kaiping as he stared at the love of his life. She was wearing a fake diamond and he determined that, to win her heart, he would buy her a real one.

Deputy chief of the credit division of the city's Bank of China, Yu did not earn enough from his salary to make such a purchase.

Then the branch chief asked him to change the date and amount on a cheque and offered him 50,000 yuan as a reward for doing so.

Setting his scruples aside, he did what he was asked, received the money and went to purchase the diamond and gems that he presented proudly to his sweetheart Yu Xuhui . She agreed to marry him.

Yu's 'education' had just began. His wife's demands did not stop at diamonds - she wanted a car and money to finance her trading in the foreign exchange market in Hong Kong and betting in Macau - where she lost five million yuan in a night of gambling.

In 1998, he became chief of the Kaiping branch and was by now locked into the theft of the bank's money that his two predecessors had begun. Fearful of arrest, the wives of the three divorced their husbands and each paid tens of thousands of US dollars to Chinese-Americans in the US to marry them and obtain US citizenship. They migrated there in 1999, to wait for their original husbands.


In October 2001, when they heard of a bank investigation, the three managers fled the country for Canada and the US, where they found to their dismay that most of their funds had been frozen.

A year later, Yu was arrested in Los Angeles and sent back to China on April 16, 2004. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison six weeks ago.

He leads a disciplined life in prison, doing 40 press-ups and jogging three kilometres each day. He studies English, which he teaches to his cell-mates, and reads books on business management and currency trading. He takes a 30-minute nap at lunchtime and plans to write a book on his adventures.

Since his parents, wife and children are all living abroad, he has few visitors.


His wife is the real winner. During his plea bargaining to return home, he persuaded the US government to give permanent residence to her and their children, even though she entered the country illegally.