Chinese authorities are after a man who duped local officials in a south western province into believing he was a high-ranking government official, earning him special treatment for his supposed authority.

Zhao Xiyong posed as the head of the State Council, China’s cabinet, for over two years. He was invited to make keynote speeches in important conferences and was seated with pride in banquets in Yunnan province, reports AFP.

He frequently toured the province, including local universities, a power company and a vegetable farm, and he would give rousing speeches about economic development, state-run China News Service reported.

His deception was uncovered recently when his empty promise made to delegates at a conference in Yunnan’s capital of Kunming found its way to the State Council.

Zhao, using the fake title “chief secretary of the Policy Research Office of State Council”, announced that the government had approved a new free-trade zone to boost the city’s economy during a speech, The Telegraph reports.

The State Council immediately denied any connection to the man.

“We have recently received reports that Zhao Xiyong is pretending to be the head of the State Council Research Office and an official of vice-minister level. We announce that he does not work for the State Council, and that no research team has ever been sent to Yunnan province,” the statement, released March 8, said.

It was unclear how Zhao was able to pull off the scheme and what his intentions were. His whereabouts and true identity also remains unknown, but he could face up to 10 years in prison for his fraudulent behavior.