Canada to return illegal assets

Updated: 2013-04-25 01:36

By Zhang Yan and Qin Jize (China Daily)

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Agreement would help facilitate repatriation of economic fugitives

China and Canada will sign an agreement to share assets that Chinese fugitives illegally transfer to Canada, the North American country's top envoy in Beijing said.

Negotiations are in advanced stages and an agreement should be reached in the next few months, Canadian Ambassador Guy Saint-Jacques said in an exclusive interview.

"It will provide a legal basis for Canada to share the proceeds of forfeited assets with China, once we identify the transferred illegal money belonged to some criminals or criminal organizations," he said.

Canada is considered a paradise for Chinese fugitives, including many corrupt officials, who flee to the country because it has no extradition treaty with China.

According to the Ministry of Public Security, thousands of Chinese economic fugitives have transferred "billions of yuan" overseas.

Chinese police face difficulties bringing the fugitives back to face trial and recovering illegally transferred funds because of political differences or complex legal procedures, according to the ministry.

"After the bilateral agreement is completed, it will facilitate the return of the money the fugitives illegally transferred and the recovery of the losses, which will help combat such crimes," said Wang Gang, a senior officer with the international cooperation bureau under the Ministry of Public Security.

Since 2008, judicial cooperation between China and Canada has made great progress, and Canadian judicial authorities are working closely with Chinese police to identify the criminals and repatriate them, he said.

Canadian judicial departments have sent 590 Chinese nationals back to China since July 2011. Of those, 53 were repatriated in connection with crimes such as drug trafficking, murder, fraud and gambling. The others were mostly related to illegal immigration.

"Once we find someone has entered Canada illegally or was suspected of committing crimes abroad, we will immediately start the judicial procedure to investigate," the ambassador said.

"Once we have identified they were fugitives, we will start the investigation as soon as we have enough evidence. Then we will contact the Ministry of Justice to start the legal procedure against the criminals, and start the process to remove them," he said.

Liaison officers in the embassy and the Canada Border Service Agency worked closely with the Ministry of Public Security and Chinese airlines to stem the flow of illegal immigrants, and provided training to airlines on identifying false visas and stopping criminals from boarding planes to Canada.

These measures have reduced the number of people who tried to illegally enter Canada by air.

Liao Jinrong, director of the international cooperation bureau under the Ministry of Public Security, said that in recent years Canada has engaged in productive judicial cooperation with China

"They paid close attention to information Chinese police provided and cooperated closely with us on case investigations, fugitives' arrests and repatriation work," he said.

"Meanwhile, they are adopting a better understanding of our laws and judicial procedures, and welcomed Chinese witnesses to testify in Canadian courts to help charge those Chinese criminals," he said.

A number of high-profile fugitives have been brought back from Canada, including Lai Changxing, who was found guilty of operating a huge smuggling ring and was deported from Canada in 2011.

Although the ambassador said there are no plans to conclude a bilateral extradition treaty, there is an annual meeting in May or June with both countries' judicial authorities to discuss major cases.

In 2010 the Ministry of Public Security signed a cooperation memorandum with Canadian police to fight cross-border crime.

"I believe more and more Chinese fugitives will be brought back, and Canada is no longer the imagined haven for Chinese fugitives, including many corrupt officials, to flee to," the ambassador said.