Wen Ruifen spoke fluent English, dressed impeccably and showed a penchant for fine dining and wine. With such sophisticated traits and her intriguing background - albeit claimed - as the wife of a diplomat and the daughter of a People's Liberation Army general, she soon became a popular figure in the social circles of Hong Kong's elite. This also perhaps explains why tycoons such as New World Development's Henry Cheng Kar-shun would fall into her scam involving 248 million yuan. She used the money thus obtained to live the high life, buying six homes in Beijing worth 17.65 million yuan and splashing out three million yuan on decorations. But now, she has to pay a price. A Beijing court ruled yesterday that she has to spend the rest of her life in jail. Sources familiar with the tycoon circle told the South China Morning Post that Wen's trick was simple. Preying on the Asian preference for guanxi or connections, she created for herself a mysterious image as 'someone with a powerful background', a source said. Such a 'background' added her name to invitation lists for golf, dinners and parties as businesspeople sought to strengthen their mainland ties. In 2000, Wen also presented herself as a victim, suing property speculator Chun Kam-chiu, formerly chairman of the Keen Lloyd Group, for failing to repay HK$702 million from the sale of her raw diamonds. Those who knew her said Wen always went by her English moniker Sabina, behaved like a poised executive and claimed to have good relations with big multinationals. This image no longer matched her appearance in court yesterday. The 45-year-old was greying and wore a drab prisoner's outfit. The court was told that from 2003 to July 2004, she falsely misled a tycoon, identified as just Mr Cheng, to believe that she had secured unspecified rights to develop Microsoft's Business Framework and convinced him to finance her to set up New World Business Solution Corp, which she chaired. She spent 248 million yuan in the name of developing the software but used it up personally. After Mr Cheng reported the case to mainland police, he was able to recoup cash and assets worth just 90 million yuan. A spokesman for New World Development, of which Mr Cheng is managing director, declined to comment yesterday.