BEIJING (Reuters) - A self-made Chinese businesswoman convicted of cheating investors out of millions had her death sentence commuted on Monday, state media said, following thousands of Internet pleas urging leniency.
Wu Ying, 31, the daughter of a peasant, was convicted in 2009 of cheating investors out of 380 million yuan ($60 million) by offering returns as high as 180 percent, while she spent the money on a lavish lifestyle, including buying four BMWs and a Ferrari.
She was sentenced to death by a court in eastern Zhejiang province, a ruling that was overturned by the Supreme Court in April.
On Monday, she was handed down a death sentence "with a two-year reprieve", Xinhua news agency said, a sentence which usually translates into life in prison.
Wu's case became a touchstone issue for China's vocal Internet campaigners and newly rich private entrepreneurs who saw the original sentence as too harsh as Beijing struggles to deliver social harmony while wealth inequality soars.
Wu's humble beginnings in business started when she opened a hair salon in 1997 to become the president of her own, unregulated, investment firm, Bense Holding Group.
Many people, especially on China's vibrant microblogging sites, believed she did not deserve the death penalty for a crime that was seen as more akin to money lending than a pyramid scheme.
Beijing has frowned on such unregulated investment operations and is running a program to bring private capital into the state-controlled banking sector.
(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee and Chris Buckley; Editing by Nick Macfie)