Last Thursday, August 21, a Shanghai-based Italian expat identified only as “Rafael” got quite a shock when he discovered 220,000 RMB had gone missing from his account.
The account, with an unidentified nationally owned bank in Guangzhou’s Tianhe district, was primarily for an auto parts business Rafael has been operating in Guangzhou for more than 6 years. Last week he lent the account’s debit card to his wife, who used it for some shopping near their home in Shanghai. When she then went to take some money out at a nearby ATM, she was startled to learn the account only had 361 RMB left in it.
Upon learning of the suspicious activity, Rafael went to a local police station to file a report. After 6 hours in the police station he was told there was nothing they could do for him, and that the Guangzhou police would have to handle it due to the bank being in Guangzhou. He then spoke to his bank and received a printout of recent transactions showing the four recent purchases by his wife and a fifth transaction with a bathroom supply shop called “New Lily” for 220,000 RMB.
Befuddled, Rafael spoke to a friend and was surprised to learn that she had a similar experience a few years ago, which until now remains unresolved. Rafael relayed, “I have done business in a lot of countries, but have never heard of this kind of crime. I have many friends doing business in China, we all have Chinese bank accounts, use Chinese debt cards, and we never realized our money is at risk. How can we get our trust back?”
The story is strikingly similar to a case involving a Dutch foreigner in Shenzhen last October, right down to the dollar amount.