U.S. SEC sues AutoChina for securities fraud

WASHINGTON Wed Apr 11, 2012 6:30pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. securities regulators on Wednesday sued AutoChina International Ltd, its executives and others for securities fraud.

The Securities and Exchange Commission said the company's employees, board members and other Chinese citizens unlawfully bought and sold AutoChina stock to boost its trading volume as the company sought loans.

AutoChina, which is based in China and owns and operates a commercial vehicle leasing business there, traded its shares on the NASDAQ stock market until last October.

Its listing was suspended for failing to file required documents with the Commission.

In a statement AuthoChina said the charges were "without merit."

"The Company intends to defend against the claims vigorously and believes that all of the evidence it is aware of contradicts the SEC's allegations," it said.

The SEC said the defendants opened brokerage accounts beginning in October 2010, deposited some $60 million in the accounts and bought and sold millions of shares of AutoChina stock.

The lawsuit comes as the SEC steps up its inquiries into Chinese companies whose shares trade in the United States for accounting violations and other misconduct.

The SEC lawsuit, filed in federal court in Massachusetts, is seeking civil penalties and other sanctions.

(Reporting By Aruna Viswanatha; Editing by Maureen Bavdek)

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