A court in northeastern China upheld a death sentence Monday against a businessman accused of bilking investors in a would-be ant-breeding scheme, state media reported.
The Liaoning Provincial Higher People's Court turned down an appeal from Wang Zhendong, who was convicted of fraud and sentenced to death last February, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
Wang, chairman of Yingkou Donghua Trading Group Co., had promised returns of up to 60 percent for investors who purchased ant-breeding kits from two companies he ran.
The insects were to be used in traditional medicinal wines, herbal remedies and aphrodisiacs.
Authorities, concerned about social unrest, have come down hard on fake investments and pyramid schemes, although Wang's sentence was harsh even by Chinese standards.
Communist leaders have sought to make examples out of businessmen and officials accused of fraud and corruption, and last year executed the former head of its food and drug watchdog for approving untested medicine in exchange for cash.
Wang attracted more than 10,000 investors between 2002 and June 2005, when investigators shut down his companies. The closure of his business set off a panic among small-time players who saw their life savings disappear overnight.
Investigators put the size of the fraud at $416 million. Only $1.28 million was recovered. Fifteen managers of the company were also fined and sentenced to prison terms ranging from five to 10 years.