Chen Guangbiao China Foundation for Global Partnership New York
Homeless New Yorkers tried to hold Chen to his pledge to give them each $300 at a dinner STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images

An eccentric Chinese millionaire who threw a charity lunch for the homeless in New York has been embroiled in a bizarre controversy over a misspelled certificate and a five-figure donation.

Recycling tycoon Chen Guangbiao claims he was deceived into giving $30,000 (£17,500) to a New York-based non-profit organisation under the pretences that he would be awarded a United Nations certificate bestowing him with the title of "world's most prominent philanthropist".

Chen said that the organisation, the China Foundation for Global Partnership (CFGP), eventually gave him the certificate at the gourmet supper for some 250 homeless people he organised with great fanfare at a restaurant in Central Park in June.

Embellished by a large UN logo, the document described Chen as "China's moral role model" and purportedly named him a "global peace and goodwill ambassador" as well as the "world's most prominent philanthropist".

Chen was pictured holding the certificate with CFGP chairman Patrick Donohue in photos that circulated on social media.

The lunch for the homeless degenerated into a shambles, as Chen backtracked at the last minute on a pledge to hand his guests $300 (£175) each and gave the total sum to homeless programmes instead.

Nevertheless the man, who according to Forbes magazine is worth $400m (£233.4m), appeared pleased to have at least received the honorific title and, in the following days, bragged about it in the Chinese press.

However the document turned out to be a fake.

A closer inspection revealed that the paper's letterhead read it was issued by the China Foundation for Global Partnership "in support of United Nation (sic)", an organisation that fell an "s" and many nations short of the Manhattan-based international intergovernmental body.

Patrick Donohue Chen Guangbiao Philanthropy award UN
The certificate awarded to Mr Chen by Mr Donohue Weibo

The UN confirmed to IBTimes UK that they were "never informed or associated in any way" with the certificate.

Upon realising the document was a fake, Chen cried foul and demanded the money back. "I might have been tricked," he told news outlet.

Chen explained that, during his trip to the US, he was contacted by a woman, who introduced him to Donohue and claimed CFGP could issue him a certificate in recognition of his philanthropic efforts.

"She also asked me to donate $50,000 (£29,170) to $60,000 (£35,000) to the foundation," he said. "I've never bought honorary titles. But she kept asking for some donation, so in the end, I offered $30,000."

"I will go to the police if she does not return the $30,000 (£17,500) to me. It's fraud," said Chen, who has another 11 honorary titles printed on his business card.

Fraud or publicity stunt?

CFGP dismissed the accusations as "another publicity stunt by Mr Chen".

The foundation claimed that they were introduced to Chen at a meeting with China-related organisations the millionaire held in New York just before his lunch for the needy.

"At this time, impressed by the mission of the foundation, Mr Chen donated $30,000 in support of our mission for which we thanked him," CFGP said. "Subsequently Mr Chen asked the foundation to give him an award during his event for the homeless to honour his many philanthropic activities. This seemed to us a worthy thing to do."

According to the foundation, at the charity supper Chen produced his own certificate with the UN logo on it.

"We assumed it was a misunderstanding and we again made clear to him that we do not and cannot represent the United Nations in any capacity and can only provide an award from the foundation itself, which we then presented to him," CFGP said.

The group added that the various business cards its representatives handed to Chen clearly stated they do not represent the UN.

However, on its official website CFGP says it "is founded under the United Nations Millennium partnership goal initiative," and works to support the UN millennium development goals in China.

The United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI) told IBTimes UK that The UN Office for Partnership (UNOP) "is not aware of a United Nations Millennium partnership goal initiative".

The UN said representatives for the UNOP had once met with Donohue last year but their contacts with CFGP ended there.

"UNOP co-convened a forum with the Foundation for Global Partnership for Chinese Business Leaders at the UN in September 2013," DPI information officer Wynne Boelt said.

"Senior officials of the UN spoke at this event on the role of business in advancing the millennium development goals. In planning for this event, UNOP met with Mr Donohue in his capacity as chairman of the China Foundation for Global Partnership.

"The UN has not collaborated further with the China Foundation for Global Partnership."

IBTimes UK asked the foundation for a comment on the issue and on the photo depicting Chen and Donohue holding the fake certificate, but received no reply.

A page on CFGP's website showing the organisation's board members and representatives that listed Donohue as chairman has since been taken offline.