Three venture capitalists in northern China were arrested on charges of illegal fundraising after 12 of their investors threatened to jump off the top of a government building.
Three venture capitalists in northern China’s Shanxi Province were arrested on charges of illegal fundraising on Sunday after 12 of their investors threatened to jump off the top of a government building, saying they were cheated of 180 million yuan ($29 million), Chinese media reported.
The investors reached the top of the six-story Development and Reform Commission building in Shuozhou city as part of an attempt to seek government assistance to help them recover their investment, Chinese daily Global Times wrote.
“Over 10 middle-aged and elderly people were standing on top of the building and attempted suicide as they claimed they wanted to recover their investments after they said the company defrauded them,” a witness told Global Times. “They said that they have complained several times but nobody [from the government] was willing to help them… They said they just want their money back.”
Local police, firefighters and officials prevented the investors from jumping and persuaded the investors to discuss the matter with local officials.
The three suspects are from venture capital firm Shanxi Heli, whose boss, Ma Aibin, is being sought by police, state news agency Xinhua reported on Sunday. Ma is suspected of fleeing with the 12 investors’ funds in November.
The broader implications of the suicide attempt
Though it was not immediately clear whether the threat to jump off the building was a stunt meant to draw attention to alleged fraud or a genuine suicide attempt, in China the loss of face that could be caused by being defrauded is a “powerful cultural construct” that may lead to societally sanctioned suicide-related behavior, according to the Routledge International Handbook of Clinical Suicide Research.
The suspected fraud comes amid a Chinese probe that uncovered almost $10 billion in fraudulent trade-financing deals, the Wall Street Journal reported in September.
Practices there have raised concern over potential losses among Chinese banks as well as foreign banks and commodities firms, the report said. More than 15 cases have been handed over to the police.
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