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George Washington University Law School

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Yilishen executives go on trial

The Shanghai Daily reports that the Shenyang Intermediate Court began hearings on May 25th in the case of Wang Fengyou, the former president of Liaoning Yilishen Tianxi Group, and 54 other suspects who face various criminal charges in connection with what was apparently a pyramid scheme involving ant farming. You would pay a certain amount to the company and in return get an ant-raising kit and a promise of regular purchases amounting to a 30% annual return. The ants were supposed to be ground up for use in an aphrodisiac manufactured by the company. (L.A. Times story here.)

When I first thought of blogging about this case, I planned on wondering here why nobody ever bothered about the fraud involved in claiming that ground-up ants could be an aphrodisiac, since to the best of my knowledge there is no scientific support for such a claim. But a little further research showed that Yilishen's product, touted as the "Chinese Viagra", was in fact probably just as effective, no more and no less. After all, according to the Food and Drug Administration in a warning, it was not just a harmless if useless herbal supplement: it contained prescription-strength quantities of sildenafil, the active drug ingredient in Viagra. The powdered ants were just a bonus, I guess.

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