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They could be redirecting domains for PR and you wouldn't necessarily see it.
Did you check it with a domain you own?
We have a "sleeper site" that is a PR6 that ranks above the mothership site with no links at all. My conclusion is the page rank dial has been cranked up again.
You see this with websites that rank well that have 2-3 great links and 3-500 unique c class ip inbound links that are not spam, and are relevant, but are from articles, blog comments, forums, guest posts etc
Over the few weeks we have been buying sitewides on blogs, no effect as yet.
By the way: One site I see at the top of the SERPs only has a Page Rank of 3, while other sites with higher page ranks are found below it in the SERPs.