A court in east China's Zhejiang province on Wednesday upheld the death penalty for a businesswoman who cheated investors out of several hundred million yuan.
In December 2009, Wu Ying, the 31-year-old former owner of the Zhejiang-based Bense Holding Group, was sentenced to death in the first-instance trial at the Jinhua Intermediate People's Court for cheating investors out of 380 million yuan (60.2 million U.S. dollars).
Wu raised 770 million yuan by promising high returns to investors between May 2005 and February 2007, the intermediate court found. She still had 380 million yuan as well as a large amount of unpaid debt with creditors when the case was uncovered, it said.
The intermediate court said Wu amassed the fortune for "illegal possession by fabricating facts, deliberately hiding the truth, and promising high returns as an incentive."
The intermediate court also ordered that all Wu's personal property be confiscated, and stripped her of political rights for life in the first-instance verdict.
The Zhejiang Provincial Higher People's Court said in a ruling Wednesday that it rejected Wu's appeal as Wu "brought huge losses to the nation and people with her severe crimes, and should therefore be severely punished."
The death sentence is still subject to review by the country's Supreme People's Court.
Born to a farmer's family in the city of Dongyang, Zhejiang province, Wu 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. The second-instance trial opened in April 2011, following her appeal.
A thriving underground lending market has been widely documented in Zhejiang, a bustling coastal province flush with abundant liquidity, as most small businesses have difficulty obtaining bank loans.
The death-sentence verdict has sparked an outcry on the country's popular Twitter-like microblogging website, Sina Weibo, with netizens calling for a more lenient punishment.
The public's reaction has grown stronger since China last year did away with the death penalty for 13 types of economic and non-violent crimes, nearly one-fifth of the total number of death penalty crimes.