Judges to tread carefully on billionaire's fraud case

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 February, 2012, 12:00am

The mainland's top court has spoken out on the fraud conviction of billionaire Wu Ying, saying it would review the contentious death penalty case with 'caution'.

At the end of a press conference on an unrelated topic, Supreme People's Court spokesman Sun Jungong acknowledged the immense public interest in Wu's case. The 30-year-old Zhejiang businesswoman (pictured) was sentenced to death in 2009 for illegal fund-raising with the intention of defrauding her investors out of 770 million yuan (HK$948 million), half of which she has repaid.

The Zhejiang High Court upheld her death sentence on January 18, and the verdict now awaits a final review by the Supreme People's Court.

Sun said the top court had formally accepted the case and that, in terms of financial fraud cases, Wu's concerned 'a particularly large amount' and was 'rather complicated', according to a report by the China News Service.

Sun added that the court would 'follow procedures, seriously verify the facts and evidence for the crime, strictly make a decision based on facts and the law, and cautiously decide the case'.

The court rarely comments on death penalty cases pending review, and some internet users thought the move indicated a possible reversal of Wu's death sentence. Others, however, cautioned that it was too early to celebrate.

Liu Renwen, of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, called the court's response a positive sign.

'At least it shows that the court is aware and taking note of the strong public opinion on this case,' Liu said.

The death sentence has triggered public sympathy for Wu, who was once ranked the sixth richest woman in China. Some debate the merits of the death penalty for an economic crime; others focus on the problems of bank-lending policies that have pushed entrepreneurs into the grey area of private fund-raising.

Even Xinhua ran a story last week quoting experts on what they call the mainland's immature market economy and how this relates to Wu's crime.

Wu has maintained that she is innocent, according to a report yesterday in the China Economic Weekly. She also tried to kill herself by drinking industrial glue when a warden tried to read her documents on her interactions with corrupt officials, the report said.

The public is also talking about Wu's assets. Police in Dongyang , Zhejiang, revealed to media last week that, five years after Wu's arrest, more than 100 homes, 41 luxury cars and gemstones owned by Wu had been taken into police custody or locked away. Among those, more than 30 cars were auctioned for 3.9million yuan, and a hotel sold at auction for 4.5 million yuan.