Property developer Luo Zhongfu will have to serve a 101/2-year jail sentence for illegally occupying forest land after a court in the southwestern province of Guizhou upheld the sentence yesterday. The Guiyang Intermediate People's Court handed down the judgment. Luo was first sentenced last month, and the courts had also sentenced a business partner and Luo's wife to shorter terms. They were tried under stricter environmental laws, which came into effect from 1997 aiming to protect natural resources. Luo's company, Beijing Fuhai Fuyingshi New Materials Technology Development, and another company used fraud to gain control of a forested area on the outskirts of Guiyang, saying it would develop the land for tourism, Xinhua reported. Instead, the project aimed to construct villas. The project had illegally occupied 267 hectares and caused deforestation on 658 hectares, the court found. Prosecutors calculated that the trees cut down as a result of the deforestation amounted to 775 cubic metres of timber. According to Xinhua, the project had not received approval by the government, but developers cleared the forested land anyway. The courts sentenced a business partner, former Guizhou Forestry Science Institute headYu Shuming, to eight years in jail and Yang Xiurong, Luo's wife, to two years in jail for illegally occupying land and obstructing justice. Yang also headed a commercial association representing Guizhou businessmen in Macau. Yu was the chairman of Guizhou Luyuan Yuanlin Technology Engineering, which helped provide development rights for the land. Construction on the project began in September 2006, and the Guiyang city government halted work in October last year. According to Xinhua, the suspension came only after Guiyang Mayor Yuan Zhou visited the site and declared the project 'illegal' and a 'blatant violation of the law'. The mainland has cracked down on both illegal property development and deforestation out of fears that removing trees could worsen disasters such as flooding and landslides. Luo was on the 'China Rich List' compiled by Forbes several times. Several entrepreneurs recognised by Forbes have later fallen foul of the law. Businessman Zhang Rongkun, a major player in Shanghai's biggest corruption case, was sentenced to 19 years in jail this year. He rose from a small-time clothing entrepreneur in Jiangsu province to become the mainland's 16th richest person. Shanghai property tycoon Chau Ching-ngai, ranked 11th in 2002, was jailed for the second time last year for bribery and fraud.