BEIJING A 30-year-old Chinese woman was sentenced to death by a court in Wenzhou for "cheating" investors of 100.11 million yuan ($16 million) losing 94 million yuan in futures and gold trading, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Friday.
The death sentence for Wang Caiping - who must first serve two years in prison - came days after Beijing launched a pilot program in Wenzhou to tame the informal private lending market to which the city's renowned entrepreneurs often turn.
Xinhua said Wang borrowed the money between January and October 2010 promising to buy equipment, invest in property and open credit guarantee firms, but instead used the cash to speculate in futures and gold trading along with her elder brother, Wang Guanglin, who is still at large.
After heavy losses, including 30 million yuan in September 2010 alone, Wang tried to negotiate with some of her creditors in November 2010, but they turned her over to police after the meeting broke up, Xinhua reported.
According to Xinhua, Wang said the 15 people had voluntarily given her money in return for handsome interest payments.
One of Wang's defense lawyers said the futures investment activities were legal and criminal charges against her were unfounded, Xinhua said.
But the intermediary court of Wenzhou, in China's eastern Zhejiang province, ruled that Wang had committed the "crime of fraud of financing" and sentenced to death for the huge sum of money involved, Xinhua added.
The Xinhua report did not say whether an appeal would be heard.
China's supreme court is reviewing another fund-raising case by a woman named Wu Ying, who was sentenced to death by a local court for "illegally raising" 770 million yuan in funds.
In China, a sentence of jail time and death usually means the punishment will be reduced to life in prison. ($1 = 6.3153 Chinese yuan)
(Reporting by Zhou Xin and Nick Edwards; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)