Chinese property tycoon arrested for violent bank robbery 16 years ago

A property tycoon in the Chinese city of Zhumadian, Henan province, has been arrested for the way he raised the seed capital that made him so rich: he robbed a bank 16 years ago.

Shi Erqun, 53, has admitted to holding up a branch of the Bank of Zhengzhou, in the city of Zhengzhou, in December 1999 – a crime that made national news in China and has until now been unsolved.

He used the cash to build up a profitable business and has been recognised as a top entrepreneur in the region.

Shi and his gang, all construction workers at the time, used guns and hammers and seriously injured two people in the heist.

Later acquiring the nickname "Big Crocodile", he was able to evade conviction despite becoming a public figure with several hundred million dollars of assets, including a trading company and a hotel management business.

Shi told local media that he had been arrested before over the robbery but let go, according to The Wall Street Journal.

He had begun to relax only in the last few years, but "technological advances" allowed police to identify him, he said.

Shi admitted to pulling off the robbery with the help of four accomplices, who were also arrested, reported The Shanghai Daily. Together, they are thought to have stolen $333,000 from the bank.

Shi was employed as a construction worker when he conceived the idea. He and his accomplices used five revolvers and two hammers for smashing glass, and the robbers opened fire at security guards, seriously injuring two of them.

Shi told the Dahe Daily: "I saw a woman crouching down and trying to make a phone call. I fired two shots behind her back to scare her."

He also admitted to being anxious for years. "I couldn’t forget this," he said. "Every day I think about what I’ve done and if someone near me makes a little move I get nervous. Especially in the first 10 years. Only in the past few years have I relaxed a bit."

The gang used their hammers to smash glass partitions inside the bank and filled two bags with money, after which they escaped on bicycles and blended in with the crowds in a night market in central Zhengzhou, which is about 40km to the north of Zhumidian and has a population of about 2.5 million.

Mr Shi used his share of the cash – about $150,000 – to buy land in Zhumadian. Over the years, his business prospered as the property market boomed. He said he could earn about $3m a year during the good times, and in 2009, was ranked first among the top 10 entrepreneurs celebrated in his district.

Photograph: Zhengzhou, capital of Henan province, where the robbery made national news in China (Wikimedia Commons)

Story for GCR? Get in touch via email: [email protected]

Latest articles in News