China Formula One boss jailed for embezzlement

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - A flamboyant sports entrepreneur who helped bring Formula One motor racing to China was sentenced to four years in jail on Thursday for embezzling 1.05 million yuan (73,000 pounds), the official Xinhua news agency said.

Yu Zhifei, former general manager of Shanghai International Circuit Co, which hosts China’s Formula One race, misappropriated the money from Shanghai Shenhua Football Club in the late 1990s to help pay for his purchase of a house, Xinhua reported.

Yu, 54, is one of more than a dozen officials and businessmen who were detained in the wake of a scandal last year over embezzlement of Shanghai’s social security funds. The furore led to the dismissal of the city’s Communist Party boss Chen Liangyu.

Yu moved from running a small manufacturing company to controlling the famed Shenhua football club before he took the motor racing job. He brought Manchester United to Shanghai to play against his club in 1999.

The 177 million pound Shanghai race track, which can hold 200,000 people, hosted China’s first Formula One Grand Prix in September 2004 and also holds world championship motorcycle races.

Yu, who was tried in the city of Wuhu in east China’s Anhui province, said he would consult with his lawyer on whether to appeal the verdict, Xinhua reported.

Reporting by Andrew Torchia, Editing by Matthew Jones