By Cal Widdall
Previously China’s 6th richest woman, Wu Ying, 30, seems likely to face the death penalty after her appeal against a financial fraud conviction has been rejected. In a controversial case which has divided national opinion over the use of the death sentence in non-violent crimes, Zhejiang Higher People’s Court reached their decision on the grounds that Wu “brought huge losses to the nation and people with her severe crimes, and should therefore be severely punished.”
After dropping out of secondary school Wu Ying started a successful chain of beauty parlours whose principal product was a treatment for smooth skin involving animal placenta injections. Her business empire grew to include hotels, spas and property, and at her height was worth over 3.8 billion RMB.
Her downfall came when she was detained in 2007 and eventually convicted of financial fraud charges in 2009. The hearing found that she had defruaded 390 million RMB from 11 people by convincing them to invest in her companies with the promise of high returns, then used the money for personal consumption.
Wu’s lawyer, however, insists that she is innocent, stating that the people she borrowed money from were friends and she has used their funds to invest in highly profitable businesses. She will attempt to plead for a lesser sentence whilst waiting for the final review from the Supreme People’s Court in Beijing.
This is not the first high profile financial fraud case to result in the death penalty, last July the former vice mayors of Suzhou and Hangzhou were executed for taking millions in bribes. The use of capital punishment for non-violent offences has been criticised both at home and abroad, though in recent years Beijing has taken steps to reduce the number of crimes punishable by death.