Five people linked to a collapsed Chinese peer-to-peer lender have gone on trial for gold smuggling, the first court case in a scandal that allegedly bilked investors of 58 billion yuan (.4 billion) nationwide.
The five smuggled 1,239 gold bars weighing a total of 125.5 kilograms from Southwest China's Yunnan province to neighboring Myanmar in October last year, prosecutors said during a trial on Thursday at a court in Puer city, Yunnan. At current world market prices, the gold is worth about .8 million.
The five people were also accused of illegally crossing the border between China and Myanmar multiple times last year, Xinhua News Agency reported on Friday.
They acted at the behest of Ding Ning, the chairman of Yucheng Group, the parent firm of P2P lender Ezubao, the report said.
The gold is only a tiny fraction of the .4 billion Ezubao is said to have defrauded from more than 900,000 investors across the country, according to Beijing police authorities in charge of the case.
The investigation has been concluded and the case has been handed over to prosecutors, police said on Wednesday.
Authorities have frozen more than 10 billion yuan of funds and seized 300 million yuan worth of cash, as well as assets from properties to helicopters.
A total of 26 people, including Ding and Yucheng president Zhang Min, have been charged with fraud and illegal fundraising, police said.
Police previously said that Ezubao concocted fake projects to attract investment and pocketed funds instead of passing them to borrowers to generate returns.
As part of Yucheng's overseas expansion, the firm set up a bank in Myanmar, Beijing News previously reported.
The case, said to be China's biggest-ever Ponzi scheme, has sparked protests from investors and is one among several controversial investment projects which have come to light this year.