It is a twist on an old scam: A gullible patsy loses a small fortune helping a former monarch recover his royal funds. But what happens when the deposed ruler claims to be the Beijing born and raised Qianlong Emperor who last ruled China in the 18th century?

Wan Jianmin, 55 years old, is on trial in Shenzhen this week for defrauding a Guangdong woman and her husband of over RMB 40 million.

According to court records, Wan was a serial liar who claimed at various times to be a Vietnam War veteran, an international currency mastermind, a protege of George Soros, the secret head of the Royal Bank of Canada, and cozy with China’s top military leaders.

He also pretended to control a fund worth over RMB 300 billion which he said belonged to the Qing imperial family.

To bolster his claim, Wan Jianmin enlisted the services of the Qianlong Emperor, looking quite fit for being over 300 years old.

Between 2012 and 2014, the victim, Zheng Xueju and her husband handed over millions of RMB to Wan Jianmin to invest in high-growth funds and as operating capital to unfreeze the assets of the apparently immortal monarch.

Wan is on trial for criminal fraud and misrepresentation.

This isn’t the only recent case involving an imperial impostor. Last fall, a Henan woman was convicted of defrauding victims out of more than RMB 2 million. Wang Fengying, a 47-year-old unemployed farmer, claimed she was entitled to 175 billion yuan of royal assets but needed additional funds to bribe officials to get her money. Wang was sentenced to 13.5 years in prison.

For his part, the Qianlong Emperor (1711-1799) ruled China from 1736 until 1796 when he officially retired, handing control over to his son. Unofficially, he was still very much in charge, and the Qianlong Emperor died at 1799, he set the record for China’s longest-serving and oldest monarch.

According to court records, Qianlong imposter Liu Qianzhen credited his “longevity” to the regular consumption of elixirs of immortality. Apparently, this was good enough for the victims, although several of their relatives suggested to the court that they found this explanation “unscientific.”

The trial for Wan Jianmin and his accomplices continues this week in Shenzhen.


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