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May 31, 2013

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Couples left in the lurch as Japanese firm goes under

SONG Kaifeng, 31, who was looking forward to his wedding ceremony tomorrow, has been dealt a shock.

The Japanese company he hired for one-stop wedding preparations, including banquet, flowers and entertainment, was shut down by the court this week for failure to pay rent, leaving Song and possibly up to 54 other couples fleeced and wedding plans gutted.

The victims, hoping to recoup some of their money, staked out the company office, and when the manager arrived on the sly to retrieve some data from his computer, he ended up on the floor with a bloodied face. The whereabouts of the Japanese chief executive aren't known.

Song paid a 75,000 yuan (US$12,100) deposit covering about 90 percent of the full cost of his wedding.

Shanghai police said they began investigating the company, Blunebold Iuno Co, located in the downtown SML Center at No.2 Ruijin Road after couples reported that the boss may have fled to Japan, carrying several million yuan he charged them.

The exact number of couples who have paid deposits is as high as 55, according to victims who cited data they said police retrieved from the computer.

The couples were charged as much as 150,000 yuan for full wedding arrangements at a hall rented by the company.

"For Chinese people, their wedding is the most important event in their lives," said Song. "I've seen reports of bosses at small hairdressing salons fleeing with the cash in the night, but a runaway boss leaving newlyweds in the lurch? I still cannot believe it."

Song, a Beijing native, flew to Shanghai this week, his fiancee's hometown. Tomorrow's grand ceremony was planned to impress all his relatives and friends, Song said with bloodshot eyes filled with anger.

In China, newlyweds usually have to book tables for their wedding banquet in restaurants or hotels one year in advance, which means that 10 couples who had planned to hold their wedding ceremonies with the company in June may have to wait another 12 months to officially tie the knot.

"I haven't told my parents yet," said a bride-to-be who paid 50,000 yuan for an October 1 wedding. "I don't want to see them get worried because I cannot find a place to get married."

The 20 couples who staked out the office overnight on Wednesday said they arrived at the premises to find a sign on the door from the building's manager saying that the head of the wedding planning company had absconded with the money. The landlord had taken the company to court because rent was two months in arrears.

The couples spoke to Shanghai Daily about their anger over the affair. "The Japanese manager was found fetching some data from his computer," said a victim named Zhou. "We caught him in the act and asked him for an explanation. He remained silent, and all of a sudden, he was face down on the floor.

"He was such a good actor. If I hadn't seen him bite his lips so hard that he bled profusely before he fell, I actually believe we might have given him a good drubbing. I think he bit his lip to escape us," he said.

Shanghai Dingrong Real Estate Development Co, which manages the building where the wedding planner did business, said the Japanese manager was taken away by police after an argument and some pushing and shoving with the scam victims.

According to the statement, workers at Blunebold Iuno reported to the Shanghai labor authority on Tuesday that their salaries had not been paid. Blunebold Iuno rented two floors for three years.

"I knew there was something wrong with the company when its staff contacted me before quitting their jobs, one by one, in the past several weeks," said a prospective groom named Zhang Leming. Another victim said that all the waiters and cooks working for the company went on strike on May 1, but returned to work for one wedding after the groom got down on his knees to beg them not to disrupt his wedding.


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