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BEIJING, Feb 4 (Reuters) - A Chinese court on Monday upheld the death penalty for a company chairman convicted of conning investors out of 3 billion yuan ($417 million) in a bogus scheme to breed ants to make aphrodisiacs, state media said.
Liaoning Provincial Higher People's Court upheld the judgment against Wang Zhendong, board chairman of Yingkou Donghua Trading (Group) Co. in northeastern Liaoning province.
Wang was sentenced to death last February while 15 company managers were jailed for between five and 10 years by the Yingkou Intermediate People's Court.
"Wang promised returns of 35 to 60 percent for the fictitious project" under the name of Donghua Zoology Culturing Co. Ltd. and Donghua Spirit Co. Ltd. between 2002 and 2005, Xinhua news agency said.
The ants were to be used for making liquor, herbal remedies and aphrodisiacs. More than 10,000 investors signed contracts with the company before the case was investigated in June 2005.
"Wang, however, continued to swindle investors who visited the company and told them the business was doing very well. He misused 798 million yuan raised from investors, buying himself luxury goods and lending money to others."
One investor committed suicide after realizing he had been duped, the Yingkou court heard.
Another similiar scheme in Liaoning hit the headlines in November last year. The company involved went bust after thousands of angry investors took to the streets of the provincial capital demanding their money be returned. (Reporting by Nick Macfie; Editing by David Fogarty)