SEOUL, A Seoul court sentenced several South Koreans to prison terms on Wednesday for a treasure ship scam that was meant to trick investors.

Last year, they claimed the discovery of the wreckage of the Dmitrii Donskoi, a Russian armored cruiser, near Ulleung Island in the East Sea. The ship, which sunk in 1905 after a battle with Japanese warships, is rumored to contain gold.

They attracted a total of 8.9 billion won (US$7.6 million) from thousands of investors, saying that the Donskoi contained around 200 tons of gold worth 150 trillion won, according to investigators. Their assertion was later found to be groundless.

The Seoul Southern District Court issued a five-year prison term to the former vice chairman of a business group formerly known as Shinil Group, who is identified only by his surname, Kim. He faced a relatively severe punishment, as he had an earlier conviction for fraud.

The court also sentenced the former head of the group, whose family name is Ryu, and another key accomplice to two years and four years in prison, respectively.

"Their responsibility for the crime is very heavy, given the method and scale, as it's a case where they swindled many unspecified people and took huge gains," Choi Yeon-mi, the judge who presided over the case, said.

Source: Yonhap news Agency