99-year-old man on trial for swindling

BEIJING Wed Feb 4, 2009 10:27am EST

A shop assistant checks hundred yuan bank notes at a shop in Xiangfan, central China's Hubei province, August 19, 2006. REUTERS/Stringer

A shop assistant checks hundred yuan bank notes at a shop in Xiangfan, central China's Hubei province, August 19, 2006.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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BEIJING (Reuters) - A 99-year-old Chinese man has gone on trial in Beijing accused of swindling some 750,000 yuan ($109,700) from an American, the oldest criminal defendant ever in the city, domestic media said Wednesday.

Zhou Zhiping, born in 1910, claimed to be a former provincial governor during the Nationalists' rule of China, which ended when the Communists took power in 1949, the Beijing News said.

Zhou said he had close connections with government leaders and could help with the unfreezing of assets of the former Nationalists held in the United States, the report said, without elaborating.

Due to his age, Zhou was released on bail. The prosecutor also did his questioning at Zhou's house rather than the court, the newspaper added.

The elderly defendant, who has poor hearing, denied all the accusations in court. He could be jailed for at least 10 years or even for life if found guilty, the report said.

($1=6.839 Yuan)

(Reporting by Liu Zhen, editing by Ben Blanchard and Sanjeev Miglani)

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