China overturns tycoon’s death sentence

2012-04-20 14:53

China’s high court overturned the death sentence on a former tycoon today, in a case that caused an uproar over the Communist nation’s use of capital punishment for economic crimes.

The State Supreme Court ordered the high court in eastern Zhejiang province to retry the case of Wu Ying.

It recommended that any death sentence should come with a two-year reprieve – a penalty almost always commuted to life in prison.

“The State Supreme Court has decided in accordance with the law not to approve the death sentence,” a court statement said.

“From the overall consideration of the case, the implementation of the death penalty to Wu Ying should not be immediate.”

Wu (31) was sentenced to death in 2009 for swindling private investors about 380 million yuan (R471 million) in a case that drew attention to the state banking system’s reluctance to provide capital to private businesses.

It also caused a public uproar due to Wu’s relatively young age and to the state’s widespread use of the death penalty, including in cases related to economic crimes.

Once one of China’s richest women, Wu built a business empire out of a modest family beauty salon that branched out into car rentals, clothing and then into real estate and commodities, state press reports said.

But her efforts to raise investment capital through China’s murky world of private finance led to her arrest in 2007 on charges of illegal fundraising.

According to the London-based rights group Amnesty International, China, on a yearly basis, executes more criminals than the rest of the world combined, although the actual numbers of people China puts to death remains a state secret.

Earlier this year, the US rights group Dui Hua reported that China had halved its executions since 2007, when its high court began reviewing death row cases, but that the nation still puts about 4 000 people to death every year.

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