Call to ax fundraising fraud death sentence

By Fang Yang Source:Global Times Published: 2014-3-10 1:23:01

Thirty-six deputies to the National People's Congress (NPC) have submitted a proposal to abolish the death penalty for the crime of fraudulent raising of funds, Nandu Daily reported Sunday.

The proposal, made at the two sessions, lists six arguments for the abolition, varying from the difficulties in the legal definition of illegal fundraising to the defects in financial system that cause financing difficulties for private firms.

It also argues that fraudulent fundraising shouldn't retain the death penalty since it belongs to the category of fraud, for which the maximum punishment is life imprisonment.

"The crime of raising funds illegally poses less social harm than violent crimes," Liu Renwen, a law professor from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

Liu believes that in the past, imposing the death penalty for this crime was to protect the monopoly of State-owned financial institutions. Due to the previous lack of sufficient market regulations, there have been a large number of victims involved in such crime and social stability was threatened, he said.

"With improved market regulation and strengthening market dominance, the crime doesn't occur so frequently anymore," Liu said.

In 2011, when China first reduced the number of capital crimes since the Criminal Law took effect in 1979, 13 non-violent crimes were no longer punishable by death. The discussion on applying the death penalty to fraudulent fundraising was triggered in the wake of several recent controversial cases.

Zeng Chengjie, a leading real estate developer in Jishou, Hunan, who was convicted in 2011 for fraudulent fund-raising of sums up to 3.45 billion yuan ($562 million), was executed in July 2013, triggering debate over whether he should have been sentenced to death.

Zeng's defense lawyer Wang Shaoguang said Sunday that the definition of this crime is obscure and can easily cause mismanagement of justice.

Wang believes that in about two years, the death penalty for this crime will be abolished in China, and the crime of fraudulent fundraising will also be amended following financial reform.

Fraudulent fundraising, especially  cases involving huge sums of money, cause heavy losses to people and should attract severe penalties, said Liu Junhai, professor at the Law School at the Renmin University of China.

"The death penalty for this crime poses a threat to offenders and prevents serious violations against the public," said Liu Junhai. Instead of abolishing the capital sentence, China should reform private funding and lift controls on private financing for entrepreneurs.

The legislature will study the possibility of reducing the number of types of crimes to which the death penalty is applicable, according to Zang Tiewei, vice-director of the criminal law department under the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee.

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