A Shanghai court has sentenced Shen Hao, a former president of 21st Century group, to four years in prison for extortion and blackmail. He has also been fined 60,000 yuan (£6,207, $9,274)

Shanghai Pudong New District Court's microblog said: "[Shen had] committed the crimes of extortion, forcing transactions, embezzlement" and "self-gratification". While the case has been going on for more than an year, the sentence was announced on Thursday (24 December).

State-run news agency Xinhua last year reported that Shen had admitted to the charges and said: "I failed to control my greed and resist temptations. The power I had has become the tool for me to seek personal benefits."

Shen is not the only executive from the company to have been convicted. Le Bing, the group's chief financial officer, too has been convicted of embezzlement and has been granted a suspended sentence of two years.

Apart from the two top executives, several other executives and journalists at the group, which owns the 21st Century Business Herald newspaper, have been arrested. They have been accused of demanding payments from companies for getting featured in the media and for publishing attacks on companies which refused.

The newspaper, which was well known for its aggressive reporting on the financial world, was founded in 2001 and was based in the southern city of Guangzhou. It has been shut down since the arrests.

While these arrests follow a recent crackdown by the government on corruption, including in the financial and media businesses, it has also raised concerns if the government was using the tactic as a whip to silence legitimate journalism.

Chinese billionaire tycoon Guo Guangchang had gone missing recently amid this crackdown on corruption, leading to speculation that he might have been arrested.