99-year-old man on trial for fraud

Today's Beijing Times reported on a fraud case which Involves a 99-year-old man named Zhou Zhiping who is charged with fleecing the victim, a Mr Chen, of 749,000 yuan (US$110,000). Zhou went on trial yesterday in a Beijing court. His advanced age makes him the "oldest suspect in Beijing on record."

According to the prosecutors, in his dealings with Chen, Zhou had falsely claimed himself to be "Li Liejun". The real Li Liejun was a revolutionary who once followed Sun Yat-sen and was later appointed by Chiang Kai-shek as the governor of Jiangxi Province. The official record shows that Li died in 1946.

Zhou and his two conspirators made up a story that before Nationalist Party's high-level officials fled the Mainland in 1949, they had purchased a large quantity of American government bonds and deposited them in overseas banks. According to the con men, the assets, now valued at over 130 trillion U.S. dollars, had been frozen by the US government ever since. Zhou told Chen that to get the money, he needed a "key", which consisted of a number of US dollar banknotes with consecutive serial numbers issued in 1996.

Zhou and his accomplices asked Chen for money to fund their search for the "key" banknotes. He gave them cash over a period of three years before realizing that he had been had.

Chen, reportedly a Chinese-American scientist, told the Beijing Youth Daily that he was not fully convinced by Zhou's story, though he finally decided to give him the benefit of the doubt in part because he needed to find funding for his research.

The court didn't deliver its verdict on the case yesterday. According to the judge, if the suspect is found guilty, he could face at least ten years in prison.


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