27-year-old tycoon charged with fraud

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 November, 2008, 12:00am

Prosecutors in Jinhua , Zhejiang province , have formally charged a 27-year-old businesswoman who built a paper fortune by illegally raising money through fraud.

Wu Ying , the head of the Bense Group in Dongyang , had illegally raised nearly 390 million yuan (HK$442 million) between May 2005 and February last year by promising high rates of return, Xinhua cited the indictment as saying.

Wu collected the deposits on behalf of the group, but instead of investing them, she took the money for herself, according to the indictment. She used it to pay off highinterest debts and buy property and cars, the report said.

'The procuratorate believes the defendant, Wu Ying, raised a huge amount of money by fraud and caused massive losses,' the indictment said.

'She should be charged with fraud by raising money illegally, and her criminal responsibilities should be examined.'

The charge came more than one month after seven 'middlemen' involved in the case, who raised hundreds of millions of yuan each and lent the money to Wu at high interest rates, were charged with illegally raising deposits.

Wu popped onto the public radar in 2006 as a mysterious businesswoman whose fortune was estimated at 3.8 billion yuan.

Amid questions about how she made her fortune, Wu, a farmer's daughter, claimed she had acquired her start-up capital legitimately from the profits of foreign trade and by speculating in jewellery, real estate and commodity futures.

Some reports said Wu had started out in 1998 running a chain of beauty parlours in Dongyang and by 2006 had invested 300 million yuan in 15 companies ranging from car repair shops to a hotel.

She was also portrayed as a philanthropist after reportedly donating 6.3 million yuan to charity.

In February last year, Dongyang authorities said Wu was under investigation on suspicion of raising the money illegally and that the companies in her Bense Holding Group were being audited and their debts registered.