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Ponzi case heard in Zhejiang court

A WEALTHY young woman in Zhejiang Province appeared in court yesterday morning for allegedly operating Ponzi schemes worth 390 million yuan (US$57 million). The Jinhua Intermediate People's Court heard the case.

Wu Ying, 28, has been in custody for the past two years while the case was being investigated, Beijing-based Caijing magazine reported on its Website yesterday. Prosecutors from Jinhua People's Procuratorate said Wu, the legal representative of Bense Holdings Group Co, illegally raised money from groups of her friends, telling them they could make high returns through setting up companies, making investments and offering private loans.

She operated the scheme mainly in the Zhejiang cities of Yiwu, Dongyang and Ningbo.

Wu used the money collected from some investors to pay returns to others, and purchase houses and cars, as well as maintain a lavish lifestyle, said prosecutors.

The charges facing Wu were upgraded from illegal fund raising to fund-raising fraud, according to Caijing.

Wu's attorney Yang Zhao°?dong, a partner of Beijing law firm Jingdu, told the magazine the heaviest punishment for those convicted of fund-raising fraud is the death penalty, while those convicted of illegal fund raising face a maximum of 10 years of imprisonment.

Other suspects involved in Wu's scheme were sentenced by Dongyang People's Court in January.

Yang pleaded not guilty on Wu's behalf, as he claimed the fund-raising was a series of private loans and there was nothing fraudulent about Wu borrowing the money.

All the money came from Wu's friends, who in turn raised it from others, Yang said.

The money was for the daily operation of Wu's Bense Holdings Group, and Wu had no intention of keeping the money, according to Yang.

Wu said businesses she ran, including a trade company, a hotel, an investment agency and a real estate firm, were all making high returns.

Yang also questioned procedural defects in the investigation of Wu.

Wu was listed sixth on Hurun Report's rich women list in 2006 with 3.6 billion yuan, but the way she'd made the money was until now a mystery.


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