Uproar over hasty execution

By Chang Meng Source:Global Times Published: 2013-7-15 1:03:01

The family of an executed millionaire Sunday vowed to appeal the fraud case against him, after the local court in Changsha, Central China's Hunan Province ordered the convict to be executed without notifying his family.

Zeng Chengjie, a leading real estate developer in Jishou, Hunan, was convicted in 2011 for fraudulent fund-raising of sums up to 3.45 billion yuan ($562 million) and was executed Friday.

Zeng Shan, the dead man's daughter, wrote on her Sina Weibo Friday that the Changsha Intermediate People's Court did not notify the family about the execution and should be justly punished. Her message was reposted over 72,000 times as of late Sunday. She only got confirmation of the death of her father from an execution announcement posted at the court's gate Saturday.

The court later stated on its Weibo that the law has no clear procedures for prisoners being executed to be allowed to meet their family one last time. However, the entry was soon deleted and replaced by a statement claiming that the judge had notified Zeng of his right to meet his family during the formal identification process before the execution but that Zeng "didn't ask to do so." The statement also apologized for the earlier entry.

According to the judicial interpretation from the Supreme People's Court (SPC), criminals are entitled to meet with their family before execution, should either party ask to do so.

Tong Zongjin, a law professor with the China University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times that it was illegal for the court to notify Zeng of his right so shortly before the execution as the procedure did not provide time for a meeting.

In an interview with the Global Times on Sunday, Zeng Shan vowed to claim justice for her father.

Winning the bid for a huge city construction project in 2003, Zeng's Sanguan Corporation started to raise funds through private financing under governmental support. However, this private financing was suppressed from 2008 when the local administration was reshuffled.

Wang Shaoguang, Zeng's defense lawyer, published a statement Saturday refuting the verdict, saying the actual amount raised was 710 million yuan instead of 3.45 billion. He added that the assets of the Sanguan Corporation were worth 2.38 billion yuan but were sold off at a low price by authorities before Zeng's conviction. For Wang, this showed that Sanguan would have had enough  assets to pay back the unreturned funds but that the sale had negated this option.

Zeng's sentence triggered public uproar, as courts in recent years have tended to shy away from capital punishment for economic crimes.

An expert evaluation of the case by six renowned legal professors in 2012 suggested that the charge and the death sentence were improper as the amount of funds illegally raised was reached based on insufficient evidence without an evaluation of Sanguan's assets.

"Executions have been reduced since the SPC took back the authority of approval in 2007 and improved judicial standards, but the procedure still needs stricter conviction standards," said Zhao Bingzhi, a law professor with the Beijing Normal University.

Zeng's case was widely compared to the case of Wu Ying, a female billionaire whose death sentence for illegal fundraising of 770 million yuan was overturned by the SPC last year.

However, the People's Court Daily, which is affiliated to the SPC, posted a comparison of Zeng's case with Wu's on Weibo Sunday. It sought to dismiss such links, saying that Zeng's case involved a larger amount of fraudulent funds, had caused massive incidents that severely harmed social stability, and that Zeng had never confessed.

Lin Wei, a law professor with the China Youth University for Political Sciences, argued at a case discussion earlier this month that the death penalty should be limited and eventually ended for purely economic crimes that had not involved violence or sustained intention to illegally use the funds.

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