Fake princeling 'scammed stars out of millions'
Nearly 30 Olympic medallists and showbiz celebrities were swindled out of about 60 million yuan (HK$73.6 million) in bogus housing and car deals orchestrated by a woman pretending to be a 'princeling' - a child of a senior Communist Party figure - according to prosecutors.
Hearings in the high-profile fraud case began on Tuesday at the Beijing Municipal No 2 Intermediate People's Court.
Prosecutors allege that Wang Di scammed the athletes and celebrities over three years by pretending to be the daughter of a former deputy governor of Liaoning province, the Beijing-based Legal Evening News reported. Her alleged victims include Olympic athletes such as gymnastics gold medallists Yang Wei and Zou Kai and swimming gold medallist Luo Xuejuan. Actress Wang Likun and 22 other celebrities were also scammed.
The newspaper said Wang Di, a 31-year-old mother from Dalian, Liaoning, was charged with swindling 58 million yuan and HK$2.28 million from the victims, and more than 34 million yuan has not been retrieved.
Wang Di was arrested on March 6 of last year. Police said she admitted spending more than 7 million yuan, while a further 12 million yuan was taken by her 27-year-old boyfriend, gymnast Xiao Qin, who won gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Beijing Times reported.
Xiao told mainland media in 2009 that he planned to marry Wang Di, according to the Chengdu Commercial Daily. It is unclear what, if anything, has happened to Xiao. He is training for the London Olympics this summer.
He could not be reached for comment, but his mother told the Chengdu paper that her son did not take any money. 'How can you trust a defendant?' I can only tell you that what she said is not a fact,' the mother said.
'If my son was involved in the swindle case, why have [the leaders] still allowed him to take part in training?'
The Beijing Times reported that Wang Di established relationships with celebrities through her former husband, a soccer player in Dalian. The couple divorced in 2008, and Wang Di moved to Beijing, where she met Yang Yun, the wife of Yang Wei.
Wang Di rented several high-end flats in downtown Beijing and allegedly told Yang Yun that the homes were hers and that she was trying to sell them for a low price. The newspaper also said Wang Di claimed that her mother was a political rising star and her father a top official.
The Legal Evening News said Wang Di's parents were pensioners. But her Audi car, designer handbags and luxurious lifestyle convinced Yang Yun. She later introduced her husband and other public figures to Wang Di.
The scam lasted from 2008 to March of last year, and none of the victims ended up with the homes or cars they thought they had bought.
Broker Zhu Shuangshuang was the first to discover she had been scammed, the Beijing Times said. But she did not call police. In May 2010, Zhu sent her friends to Wang Di's Beijing home in an attempt to force her to repay 3.8 million yuan. Then, Zhu allegedly joined up with Wang Di in an attempt to recover the money. The former broker is also reported to have appeared in court on Tuesday, charged as an accomplice.