A businesswoman on trial for defrauding investors of nearly 390 million yuan (57 million U.S. dollars) retracted her confession Thursday in east China's Zhejiang Province.
Wu Ying, 28, former head of the Zhejiang-based Bense Holding Group, allegedly amassed the funds by promising high returns to 148 investors between November 2005 and February 2007, the Jinhua Intermediate People's Court heard. The hearing was part of Wu's initial trial.
The purported returns, ranging from 3 percent to 10 percent a month, attracted many investors. But the court heard the money was actually used to repay loans and the operating costs of her group, buy real estate and vehicles, and spend on herself.
Wu denied these claims, saying the money was all used to develop her businesses.
"I could repay the money if I had not been arrested," she said, adding that she had confessed before the trial because she was misled by others.
Her two lawyers entered a plea of not guilty on her behalf.
Under Chinese law, the punishment for illegal fund-raising could be as severe as death.
Wu, born to a farmer's family in Dongyang City, Zhejiang, started from scratch by opening a beauty salon in 1997. By 2006, she had become known around the nation for her Bense Group, which had interests ranging from hotels and department stores to Internet cafes, car sales, construction materials and dry-cleaning chains.
Wu was arrested in February 2007 and indicted last September.