'BMW town' crashes in pyramid fraud
A forest of cranes had also sprung up around the village, constructing large apartment blocks which advertised themselves with pictures of English butlers and sumptuous, chandelier–lit dining rooms.
Earlier this month, Shiji's boom ended as abruptly as it began.
What happened in Shiji is a fraud that plays out every day in some corner of China's murky economy, as local Communist Party officials and greedy entrepreneurs collude in vast pyramid schemes.
"He became a property developer, but he wanted to make a bigger fortune so he decided to also become a loan shark." Together with 17 of his friends, Shi began tapping the villagers for their savings, promising to pay them 10 per cent interest each month.
But there was little demand in the end for the huge apartment blocks, which today stand empty and half–finished. And when the borrowers started defaulting on King Claw's loans, the pyramid collapsed. Around 1,700 villagers have complained to the police, some having lost their entire life savings. Two villagers were killed in a mysterious car crash after trying to reclaim their money from one of the loan sharks.