Fake bank the latest in China business scams

BEIJING • Already infamous for the widespread availability of fake products like toys and DVDs, China now faces a growing menace in the form of "knock-off" businesses, with a bogus branch of one of the world's largest banks the latest scam to come to light.

In an elaborate fake, a man set up a branch of China Construction Bank complete with card readers, passbooks and a teller counter, reported The Financial Times.

The man, surnamed Zhang, staffed the bank near the city of Linyi with his 15-year-old daughter and two of her classmates.

"If someone came requesting to withdraw the money, they would say that their network had not been established yet, or that the authorities had not finished approval procedures. They would not allow people to withdraw money," the police said.

The fake bank lasted a month before being discovered, when a woman was unable to make withdrawals at a real branch of China Construction Bank, following which managers alerted the police.

"I just wanted to open a bank," Zhang told the Shandong Television network from behind bars, adding, "I didn't think that much about it." He said he had formally applied to join a commercial bank network, but did not get approval.

A China Construction Bank media relations officer said she was not aware of previous cases of unauthorised branches.

The case is not the first of its kind in China. Last year, a rural cooperative near Nanjing upgraded itself to a bank and attracted US$32 million (S$45 million) in deposits with the promise of high interest rates.

It was reported to the Chinese authorities in January after the bank would not allow customers to withdraw their money.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 16, 2015, with the headline 'Fake bank the latest in China business scams'. Print Edition | Subscribe