Arrest a relief for face-conscious tycoon: lawyer

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 February, 2007, 12:00am

The arrest of 26-year-old tycoon Wu Ying has freed her from the psychological pressure of maintaining the business empire she built through heavy borrowing, company lawyer Zhu Weihong said yesterday.

Ms Wu, president of Bense Holdings Group in Dongyang , Zhejiang , was arrested at the weekend on suspicion of illegally soliciting funds from the public.

Mr Zhu, the group's legal consultant, said the arrest had been a relief for the 'pig-headed' executive, who had been preoccupied with saving face. 'Only a few people, several vice-presidents of the group, knew about her borrowing money. Even her husband [the group manager] was not aware of it.

'Wu Ying is the kind of woman who tries her best to cover up everything in order to save face,' Mr Zhu said.

In seven years, Ms Wu, a native of Zhejiang, went from being a lowly paid beautician to an entrepreneur operating more than 3 billion yuan in assets ranging from hotels to trade and investment firms.

She raised eyebrows last year by setting up 15 companies and branches in three months in Dongyang after being away from her home town for several years.

Ms Wu was a high-profile businesswoman and always gave the appearance of wealth by wearing jewellery she claimed was worth billions of yuan.

A generous contributor to charitable causes and a high-profile buyer of hundreds of shopping centre booths, Ms Wu's activities led to rumours about how she made her fortune. 'She never told anyone what was going on. [The arrest] was unexpected to her family and colleagues,' Mr Zhu said.

The lawyer said he was unaware of how much the company had borrowed, because Ms Wu insisted she supplied all the funding.

The China Business News, quoting an unnamed source, reported that the company had borrowed more than 200 million yuan, mainly from illegal banks, companies and businessmen throughout the province.

'Wu Ying borrowed heavily and offered high interest. The monthly interest was between 6 per cent and 15 per cent,' a source told the newspaper.

The Zhejiang-based Du Shi Kuai Bao also quoted an unnamed businessman as saying Ms Wu had borrowed 18 million yuan from him.

Yi Xianrong , an economist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, said it was not surprising that a businesswoman such as Ms Wu could take out loans from the 'non-government banking system' as long as she had good credit.

Ms Wu had previously complained to the media that was difficult to get loans from local banks because they were suspicious of her rise.

She denied rumours that she laundered money for an overseas warlord and borrowing illegally, insisting that her start-up money came from small but lucrative businesses as well as speculation on the property, futures and stock markets.