The infamous Chinese national may have been arrested, but many more schemes like his will pop up until the real culprits are tackled.
ZHANG Jian, the infamous founder of various get-rich-quick schemes, is helplessly watching as the multibillion-yuan money game empire built by him is shattered piece by piece by the Chinese authorities.
The self-proclaimed future richest man in the world, whose real name is Song Miqiu, is currently detained by the Chinese police. He clearly knows that his destiny has come to an end as he could be sentenced to death if convicted of being involved in illegal financial activities.
“What goes around comes around. In the end, (I) have to face the punishment,” he said in a video aired by China Central Television (CCTV) during a special programme recently.
Zhang Jian, who founded the Yun Shu Mao pyramid scheme, is linked to more than 10 international scams under various names, including Yun Xun Tong and Meng Xiang Zhi Lv. He was living a fugitive life in South-East Asia, including Malaysia, after Chinese police issued a wanted notice on him in 2013, but he was finally deported back to China in June following his arrest in Indonesia.
While in detention, he confessed that promises of super-lucrative returns to investors were a big deception that would never have happened in reality.
“All these are lies for me to make more money,” he said, admitting that the huge numbers of his “followers” were actually workers, whom he paid a monthly salary of 30,000 yuan (RM19,663) per person.
The 40-year-old from northeastern Heilongjiang province has packaged himself as a billionaire, philanthropist, special agent secretly trained by China and a few more titles to impress potential investors.
He was known for his generosity, awarding his top agents with expensive gifts, including sports cars such as Ferraris and Lamborghinis.
But interestingly, what was little reported was his Casanova lifestyle of seducing women with money.
“I bought five million yuan (RM3.28mil) insurance for a Malaysian girlfriend of mine,” he said in the CCTV programme.
“I also purchased a shoplot worth five million yuan for my other girlfriend in Wuhan (China), and a six million yuan (RM3.93mil) hotel in Thailand.”
As for his own sister, Zhang Jian said he bought her a shoplot, also worth five million yuan, when he was asked to explain how he had spent the money he made from the scams.
But investigators believe these were only the tip of the iceberg.
Zhang Jian has worked as a property agent, Chinese herbs salesman and others after retiring from military service as an army cook.
He was first introduced to pyramid schemes while running a restaurant in Shenzhen, southern China, in 2012.
Soon after, he started his own pyramid scheme Yun Shu Mao, duping unsuspecting investors into buying his company’s shares.
He fled China the following year after police launched a series of operations to crack down on his syndicate, with the arrest of over 70 people.
In 2014, Zhang Jian settled down in Malaysia in a high-profile manner, buying advertising space on giant billboards introducing himself as the future richest man in the world, and making donations to schools and charitable organisations.
About two months later, he went on the run again after his business was investigated for elements of a get-rich-quick scam by Malaysia’s Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry.
He hid in a temple in Thailand under the guise of undergoing a 100-day temporary ordination programme. In October the same year, he was arrested and eventually jailed in Thailand.
Although he was serving his jail term, the Chinese authorities did not stop the investigations, in the hope of gathering more evidence to wipe out his organisation.
“We contacted police in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. We followed the activities closely and passed his name to Interpol as a most-wanted fugitive,” China’s Public Security Ministry said in a statement earlier.
Upon his release from prison, Zhang Jian made a comeback with wuxingbi (five elements coins).
Investors, who paid 5,000 yuan (RM3,277) for a gold coin, were promised a profit of at least four million yuan in a year.
Within six months, his syndicate expanded tremendously with a downline of 400,000 people, with a total investment of 2.1 billion yuan (RM1.37bil).
Police finally tracked down Zhang Jian’s whereabouts and arrested him in Indonesia.
After his arrest, many victims vented their anger on social media, calling on the authorities to take stern action against Zhang Jian.
But what they did not realise was that after Zhang Jian, there will be Zhang Jian No 2, Zhang Jian 3 and more – as long as the real culprits are not beaten.
And the real culprits here are human greed and the lust for wealth.
Meanwhile, the Chinese government has also ordered a ban on Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) – a form of investment crowdfunding via cryptocurrency or tokens, as reported by Xinhua, China’s national news agency.
In a statement issued last week, the People’s Bank of China announced that ICOs were unauthorised and illegal public fundraising suspected of being used in crime, including financial fraud and pyramid schemes.
ICOs, which have taken off in China this year, saw 65 companies raising 2.62 billion yuan (RM1.72bil) from 105,000 investors, according to a report from the National Committee of Experts on the Internet Financial Security Technology.