A man who claimed to be the personal secretary to former presidential aide Ling Jihua lost his appeal against the life sentence on Thursday in a fraud case involving millions of yuan, mainland media reports. The accused, 31, identified only by his surname of Zhao, from eastern China’s Shandong province, had been convicted of swindling more than 19 million yuan (HK$23 million) from at least three businessmen between 2009 and 2013, Beijing-based Legal Evening News reported, citing court documents. Beijing No 3 Intermediate Court had been told that Zhao –who had denied the charge of fraud – had claimed to be the personal secretary of Ling – once the chief of staff of the Office of General Secretary to former president Hu Jintao. Former Chinese presidential aide Ling Jihua faces prosecution Zhao, who was really only a shareholder in a Shandong real estate company, also told one of the businessmen he swindled money from in October 2009 that he was also a deputy director of the country’s top legislative affairs office, the court heard. He had claimed his power and connections to China’s top leadership ensured that business deals he was involved in would generate large profits.. Ling was expelled from the party last year and is expected to be tried on charges of corruption and illegally obtaining state secrets. The court heard that in May 2010 Zhao asked one businessman for 1.7 million yuan to invest in a central government-owned company. On another occasion, he asked for 500,000 yuan to help Ling’s daughter to move home. How Ling Jihua, once one of China's most powerful men, fell from grace Another victim, a woman who paid Zhao more than 3 million yuan, told police that she had be fooled into believing Zhao’s claims because he had mentioned details about Ling and his wife. Zhao was detained in March 2014. The report did not say when he was sentenced to life imprisonment after being convicted of fraud. At his appeal Zhao had argued that the payments he received merely involved the borrowing and lending of money for investments between friends, rather than fraud. Zhao also said there had not been enough written evidence to convict him of fraud because the case against him had been based only on verbal agreements and bank statements. Only one million yuan of the money paid to Zhao has been recovered since his arrest. Officials were still trying to recover the outstanding funds, the report said.