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Chinese bank 'owner' highlights audacious mainland fraud

BEIJING -- In a China awash with fake iPhones, pirated DVDs and knockoff Louis Vuitton bags, rice trader Lin Chunping took fakery to a whole new level: He invented a U.S. bank and claimed he bought it.

The little-known businessman shot to fame in January when state media reported that he had taken over Delaware-based Atlantic Bank. The unprecedented acquisition brought him praise: His hometown gave him a prestigious political appointment and state media called his business experience “legendary.”

The only thing that may have been legendary is Lin's audacity. Not only did he not buy Atlantic Bank in Delaware for US$60 million as he claimed, but there is no Atlantic Bank in that state.

Chinese reporters could not locate an Atlantic Bank or a bank registration by Lin in Delaware. He's under arrest for an unrelated fraud and has been forced to give up his municipal-level appointment to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the government's top advisory body.

Lin, who was arrested in early June, could not be reached for comment. But the 41-year-old's short, spectacular rise and fall shows how fakery has evolved in China, morphing from the manufacture of copycat goods to entire institutions and careers.

Pervasive, Eye-popping Fakeries

Last year, officials found five fake Apple stores in the southwestern city of Kunming. The stores were modeled after the U.S. company's iconic stores right down to the winding staircase and the staff in blue T-shirts.

In early June, local press in eastern Shandong province exposed a fake university. Students who did not score high enough on the national college entrance exam to make it into university received sham admission letters to the Shandong Institute of Light Industry, a real school. The students paid nearly 30,000 yuan (US$4,800) over the course of four years to attend classes at the institute.

Weeks before graduation, the students learned they would not get diplomas because they were not officially enrolled at the school but in a private training program that rents space from the institute, according to the report in the state-run Jinan Times. The program organizer had disappeared, the newspaper reported.

Among students, getting ahead by padding resumes or other subterfuge is common.

Zinch China, the Chinese arm of U.S.-based educational networking site Zinch.com, estimates that 90 percent of recommendation letters to U.S. schools are fake, that 70 percent of the essays are written by someone else and that half the transcripts are fabricated. Zinch drew the numbers from interviews with Chinese students, parents and agents.

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In this March 13, 2012 photo, businessman Lin Chunping attends a press conference in Wenzhou, in eastern China's Zhejiang province. (AP)

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