A logo of the real Goldman Sachs

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After a fake Apple store, a fake Ikea and a fake branch of one of the world’s biggest banks, China’s innovative copycats seem to be scaling the value chain: all the way up to Goldman Sachs, the international investment bank.

Nestled in the boomtown of Shenzhen, bordering Hong Kong, Goldman Sachs (Shenzhen) Financial Leasing Company is the latest case to emerge.

It is listed as operating out of an office building in the Bao An district and its existence was brought to light by the International Union of Operating Engineers, a US-based trade union that has been campaigning against corruption in Macau, the Chinese casino gambling centre close to Shenzhen and Hong Kong.

The IUOE published a screen grab of the company’s website but the site has since been taken down.

While the Chinese government has repeatedly emphasised its desire to protect intellectual property rights, enforcement is lax and abuses of brand names and outright fakery are common across the Chinese economy.

Many factories in Shenzhen and the surrounding industrial heartland of the Pearl River Delta still churn out fake designer handbags and imitation smartphones by the truckload and China’s leading ecommerce websites provide a ready forum for their distribution.

On a visit to China in April, Penny Pritzker, the US secretary of commerce, warned that “the real conversation needs to be not just about the laws on the books but also about the court system and the broad and consistent application of these rules”.

A spokesman for Goldman Sachs said there were no links between it and the Shenzhen company and that it was “looking into the matter”.

While it uses the English name Goldman Sachs (Shenzhen) Financial Leasing Company, there is no evidence that the Chinese entity was masquerading as the international investment bank.

A receptionist answering the company’s phone said it had nothing to do with the US Goldman Sachs and that she did not know why the company used the same English name.

Its name is registered in Chinese using the common characters Gao and Sheng, which mean high and prosperous and are the same characters used to make up Goldman Sachs’ Chinese name.

A fake branch of China Construction Bank, the world’s second-largest bank by assets, was discovered this month in the city of Linyi, in China’s eastern Shandong province.

The enterprising man who set it up was discovered after a month when a local woman who had deposited Rmb40,000 ($6,200) found she was unable to make withdrawals in a real branch of CCB.

In a similar case last year, a rural co-operative near the city of Nanjing upgraded itself into a bank and attracted $32m in deposits by promising interest rates as high as 2 per cent a week.

Additional reporting by Gloria Cheung in Hong Kong

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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