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Financial fraud death sentence reviewed

By Wang Qingchu (Shanghai Daily)

14:15, February 15, 2012

CHINA'S Supreme People's Court is reviewing the death sentence handed down in the case of a businesswoman who cheated investors out of multi-million dollars.

Wu Ying's case sparked debate nationwide over whether the sentence was too severe.

Court spokesman Sun Jungong said yesterday that the court would scrutinize the facts and evidence during the review process and prudently handle the case.

Wu, 31, who dropped out of school as teenager, built a business empire from a single beauty salon in just three years, Xinhua news agency reported.

But she was arrested in 2007, and the Intermediate People's Court of Jinhua in eastern Zhejiang Province found she had illegally pooled 770 million yuan (US$122 million) from private creditors between 2005 and 2007 to fund her businesses under the Zhejiang-based Bense Holding Group.

Wu cheated investors into pouring in money by making false promises of high returns. At the time of her arrest, she still owed 380 million yuan.

Wu had told victims she would use the money to register companies, invest in projects and make loans.

The Jinhua court said she had "brought huge losses to the nation and people with her severe crimes, and should, therefore, be severely punished."

Its death penalty was upheld last month by Zhejiang's Higher People's Court, leading to widespread debate over whether the punishment was too harsh for an economic crime.

Many people, including legal experts, called for leniency.

"Sentencing Wu to death is a shame on China's legal system," said Wang Wei, chairman of the Chinese Museum of Finance, on his microblog.

Wang said that Wu's case was a by-product of China's current financial environment in which a fundraising system was evolving. "It's unfair to blame one person for the defective banking system," Wang said.

Economist Han Zhiguo said: "The Supreme People's Court should listen to the public and give more tolerance to private lending activities."

Wu, who was, in 2006, the sixth richest woman on China's mainland with personal assets of 3.6 billion yuan, began by raising money from friends.

She offered them deals that included guarantees of 80 percent interest a year and 5 percent daily returns.

Her debts had reached 14 million yuan by the end of 2005 but she expanded the scheme in 2006. She began to look for more investors in Zhejiang, offering even higher interest.

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