Gu Chunfang

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File photo of businesswoman Gu Chunfang.

Gu Chunfang (顾春芳), a businesswoman from Changshu City, east China's Jiangsu Province, was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve over financial fraud involving 1.7 billion yuan (US$280 million).

Gu was born in March 1972, in Bixi Town of Changshu City, Jiangsu Province. Her mother was a village chief and her father was in charge of the Bixi Office of the Changshu Branch of Agricultural Bank of China.

Gu left her middle school before completing it. She successively worked as a cosmetics sales person, garment shop owner, fashion model and lead actress in several promotional city films.

With her beautiful and charming appearance, Gu had a large circle of acquaintances in the realms of local business and bureaucracy. Many of her friends were high-ranking officials from banks, sports bureaus, financial bureaus and political consultative conferences.

Gu also ran a number of trade companies, coal businesses and nail shops. She borrowed money and arranged to get loans through various channels, including private credit networks, with the amount of the loans exceeding millions yuan at every opportunity she saw. In the eyes of many a creditor, Gu was "dressed in famous brands, elegant and in good taste, and generous with money."

In March 2012, Gu, also the legal representative of the Suzhou Kaiweilong Trade Co. Ltd. which had found itself swimming in a huge debt, suddenly went missing. Creditors reported the case to Changshu's local security authorities one after another.

In mid-March of 2012, the Changshu Municipal Public Security Bureau accepted and handled the case. With criminal evidence at their fingertips, the police quickly started an investigation into Gu, who became a suspect of economic crimes. The police went through all formalities of criminal detention and issued an online order for her arrest.

On March 27, 2012, Gu was arrested by police in Shanghai. According to police records, Gu had visited Singapore after she had vanished from Changshu. She had several self-inflicted injuries at the time of her arrest, but nothing critically dangerous.

On June 25, 2013, the Suzhou Municipal Procuratorate filed charges against Gu on the basis of funding fraud and contract fraud.

According to the court, from 2008 to March 2012, Gu, who was in huge personal debt, had illegally raised a total of 1.7 billion yuan in loans from the public with a promise of high-interest returns. She was not able to return the 459 million yuan when investigated. From August to October 2011, Gu had fabricated information about her coal trade businesses in order to get more loans, totaling around 40 million yuan, from a small rural loan company. She could not return this 39 million yuan either.

On Oct. 23, 2013, the Suzhou Municipal Intermediate People's Court of Jiangsu Province issued its first judgment in Gu's fraud case. She was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve, deprived of her political rights for life and had all her personal property confiscated.