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China docks top official of ICBC, the world’s largest bank, to life in prison

China docks top official of ICBC, the world’s largest bank, to life in prison (Image: Fortune)

China continues to step its anti-corruption drive netting errant bankers who have been accused of splurging billions of dollars as Beijing accelerated its Belt and Road Initiative by going ahead with massive infrastructure projects in developing countries.

China has now sentenced Gu Guoming, a former top official employed by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) to life in prison. ICBC is one of China’s “too big to fail” banks. With assets more than $4trillion, ICBC is billed as the world’s largest bank.

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Since 2019, China’s top anti-graft body has been going after  high-profile financial officials, who may have sanctioned high-risk loans in return for personal financial gains.

Gu, who was  the head of ICBC's Shanghai branch previously has been stripped of his political rights for life, after  he was convicted of taking about 136 million yuan ($21 million) in bribes from 2005 to 2019, according to the verdict given by the Shanghai No.1 Intermediate People's Court, Xinhua news agency reported.

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"The amount is extremely huge and has caused heavy losses to the interests of the country and its people," according to the verdict.

Gu pleaded guilty, and helped recover most of his bribes, said the report.

Gu’s conviction follows similar punishments by other well-known bankers.

In January, China sentenced the former chairman of China Development Bank, Hu Huaibang, to life in prison for bribery, Reuters is reporting.

In the same week, a court in Tianjin, a port city near Beijing,  sentenced the former chairman of China Huarong Asset Management Co, Lai Xiaomin, to death over corruption.

This is not the first occasion when ICBC, which has become a global brand, with a solid presence in Europe and the United States, has been in the spotlight for wrongdoing.

In November 2015, ICBC Standard Bank–an overseas subsidiary was fined $40 million by UK authorities. A few months later, six ICBC officials were arrested in Spain on charges of money-laundering.