Robbers buy lottery tickets worth millions

By Time of article published Jul 25, 2007

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Beijing - Five Chinese men accused of stealing 51-million yuan (about R46-million) and then buying lottery tickets in an attempt to win the money back went on trial on Tuesday, state media reported.

Bank workers Ren Xiaofeng, 34, and Ma Xiangjing, 37, were charged with embezzling the Agricultural Bank of China in one of the most bizarre bank heists in history, Xinhua news agency said.

Ren and Ma were vault managers at a branch in Handan city in the northern province of Hebei when they started taking money from the safe to play the state lottery in what state media called the country's biggest bank robbery on record.

The two thought that by buying millions of yuan in tickets they would eventually win back enough to replace the missing funds and allow them to leave their low-paid jobs for a life of luxury.

At first Ren colluded with Zhao Xuenan and Zhang Qiang, charged with misappropriation of public funds, and stole 200 000 yuan (about R181 000) from the bank's safe, Xinhua said.

Ren actually replaced the missing funds after he won the lottery.

But Ren became bolder when he began collaborating with Ma, stealing another 50,95-million yuan (about R42-million) from the bank during a 30-day period between March and April.

They spent a total of 47-million yuan (about R42-million) on lottery tickets in Handan, but failing to win, went on the lam in mid-April, only to be arrested by police days later.

The court has also charged Song Changhai for harbouring Ma when he was on the run, the report said.

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