In what is perhaps the swindle of the century, a man in Zhejiang province was able to take an old tree trunk that he purchased for 200 RMB ($29) and resell it for 1.68 million RMB ($244,000) just three years later.
The man surnamed Lin reportedly claimed that the trunk was from the rare and treasured Phoebe zhennan, a large species of tree which grows in Guizhou, Hubei and Sichuan province. Its wood used to be so valuable that only the emperors of China could afford to use it. Whole Phoebe zhennan logs were used in the construction of the Forbidden City. Ming Dynasty emperors had their thrones and bedroom furniture made out of the wood.
Nowadays, the tree is under second-class national protection and sells for a fortune — like say 8,000 times more than a regular tree.
To pull off the scam, Lin faked a certificate of authenticity to go along with the trunk, which managed to fool the hapless buyer. However, the buyer later took the “Phoebe zhennan” to an expert who informed him that he had in fact just bought himself a worthless hunk of tree.
The buyer tried to contact Lin, but of course he had slipped away. Police later caught up with him and arrested him.
[Images via NetEase]
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