Photo: Wikimedia Commons
I don’t know, it looks real to me.Stop me if you’ve heard about this one. It’s a great story that involves a ceremonial suit of jade tiles used for burials (aka jade burial suit, jade casket, jade case).
As you can see in the photo, it looks like a suit of ancient armour.
These ancient artifacts are extremely rare, and entire suits are generally not available.
Individual jade tiles can be purchased, but that’s about it.
Therefore, you’d expect a certified antique suit would be worth a hell of a lot of money.
Indeed, and that’s exactly what Xie Genrong thought.
This guy goes out on the market and buys a bunch of these jade tiles and then has two burial suits constructed. Now he’s got something of value, right?
Not just yet.
He can’t just pass these things off as real to a buyer.
No art collector would be stupid enough to buy one of these things without getting a proper appraisal, and obviously these items will not stand up to a great deal of scrutiny.
What’s a grifter to do? Well, if you can’t cheat a hapless buyer, best to use your imagination. And Xie Genrong was a creative guy. His solution? Use the two jade burial suits as collateral for a big arse bank loan. Chances are that your average banker doesn’t know a thing about antiques, right?
But wait a second. Bankers aren’t that stupid, and anyway, aren’t there rules about appraising assets? Yes, and that was a potential problem. However, remember that Xie Genrong was a resourceful dude; he knew that additional assistance was required.
Enter Niu Fuzhong, the middleman. He helped Xie Genrong put together an impressive appraisal team of five experts, including academics from China’s Palace Museum. If these guys would sign off on the value of the jade burial suits, then Xie Genrong would be home free.
And of course the experts did sign off on the authenticity of the antiques. Xie got his loan, and everyone down the line was paid off. Problem is that someone found out about all this, and now everyone has a bit of legal trouble to deal with.
This is entertaining enough, but the story gets even better. Now that punishments are in the offing for these folks, the finger-pointing has started. This is hilarious.
Just a couple of my favourite excuses. As you can imagine, the academic experts are trying to place the blame on each other, and unfortunately one of the panel has died. Since he cannot defend himself, he is drawing a lot of the fire. Blame the dead guy — that’s a classic.
Additionally, one of the experts has claimed that the burial suits were inside a glass case when the experts “examined” them (and received envelopes of cash for their trouble). Apparently looking at an antique through a glass case is sufficient to render an opinion worth billions of RMB. No matter. They already had a previous assessment to fall back on, so out of respect for that appraiser, they just acted like a rubber stamp. I don’t know what you think, but I’m not sure that admitting these things is an effective defence strategy.
However, none of these excuses can touch my favourite one in terms of sheer audacity. One of the experts claims immunity from liability because of academic freedom! Whether the appraisal was accurate or a complete mess is irrelevant, you see. These were members of the academy involved in a scholarly pursuit.
I love this story for so many reasons. The entrepreneurial spirit of Xie Genrong, the fools at the China Construction Bank for giving him such a bullshit loan (perhaps as much as 700 million RMB!!!), the creepy henchmanlike work performed by Niu Fuzhong, and the utterly corrupt academic experts that made the whole thing possible.
Simply awesome. Someone should snatch up the movie rights immediately. I’m thinking one of those ensemble casts with George Clooney.
For more details:
男子自制古董骗贷10亿 原故宫副院长等估价24亿 (法制晚报)
Experts on the Take: Dissecting a Chinese Penchant for Fraud in High Places (Economic Observer)
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