China executed four people, including employees of two of its Big Four state banks, for fraud totaling $15 million, the Xinhua state news agency said on Tuesday, amidst a high-profile campaign against financial crime.
The executions come after a string of arrests in white-collar crime as China prepares to sell shares in its big banks.
The latest cases involved China Construction Bank, due to raise up to $10 billion in an IPO next year, and Bank of China — which is moving towards an IPO worth up to $4 billion.
Wang Liming, a former accounting officer at China Construction Bank in the central province of Henan, worked with others to steal 20 million yuan ($2.4 million) from the bank using fake papers, Xinhua said in a report on its Web site. An accomplice, Miao Ping, was also executed.
Another Construction Bank employee, Wang Xiang, was executed for taking 20 million yuan from the bank in an unrelated case.
Liang Shihan, an official at the Bank of China's branch in the southern city of Zhuhai, helped cheat his bank out of $10.3 million, Xinhua said.
Xinhua did not say how the four were killed. China, which executes more criminals than the rest of the world combined, usually puts inmates to death with a gunshot to the back of the head, but has recently experimented with lethal injections.
The debt-laden state banks have been involved in other fraud scandals as Beijing tries to clean them up ahead of 2007, when the sector opens fully to foreign rivals as part of pledges made to the World Trade Organization.
China arrested Liu Jinbao, former chief of the Bank of China's Hong Kong branch, for corruption in February. Last December, Wang Xuebing, former head of Construction Bank, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for taking bribes.
The government injected a combined $45 billion into Construction Bank and Bank of China last year as part of a pilot scheme to reform the sector and prepare for the IPOs.
The precise number of people executed in China is a secret. Reports range from 5,000 to 10,000 a year, many for murder, but also for corruption and crimes as minor as bottom-pinching.
Legal experts have called for a "kill fewer, kill carefully" policy for non-violent crimes.