updated 12/25/2004 1:27:18 AM ET 2004-12-25T06:27:18

A businessman has been sentenced to life in prison and his wife to 14 years behind bars for stealing $50 million in China’s second-biggest bank fraud since the start of communist rule in 1949, a news report said.

Chen Manxiong and his wife, Chen Qiuyuan, were convicted of embezzling the money from a branch of the state-owned Bank of China with the help of two bank clerks, the official Xinhua News Agency said Friday.

It said they stole the money from 1993-95 from a bank branch in the southern city of Zhongshan, near Hong Kong. The report didn’t give any other details.

The couple fled to Thailand but were caught and repatriated in 2002, the report said.

One of the clerks was earlier sentenced to life in prison and the other to 20 years behind bars, Xinhua said.

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