China, US bear down on fugitives, 'Sky Net' unleashed

Updated: 2015-03-27 04:05

By ZHANG YAN, CUI JIA in Beijing and CHEN WEIHUA in Washington(China Daily USA)

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China will strengthen cooperation with the United States on major legal cases aimed at repatriating corrupt Chinese officials hiding in the US, as well as confiscating their ill-gotten assets, a senior official of the Supreme People's Procuratorate said.

The remarks followed news that one of China's most wanted fugitives is being prosecuted for immigration fraud and money-laundering by US law enforcement authorities.

US federal prosecutors announced on Saturday they have begun proceedings against Qiao Jianjun, a former officer of China Grain Reserves Corp who is suspected of fraud in obtaining his immigration visa when he entered the US. He is also suspected of transferring 300 million yuan ($48.4 million) to the US through money laundering.

Qiao's former wife was arrested by the FBI, and Qiao is being held. It is the first instance of a prosecution by US authorities of a suspected corrupt official from China.

China has "a priority list of alleged Chinese corrupt officials" believed to be at large in the US, and it has provided that list to US authorities to request their assistance, said Xu Jinhui, director with the procuratorate's anti-corruption and bribery bureau.

Chinese authorities will also start legal procedures to confiscate assets overseas, Xu said.

"Once in possession of solid evidence, we will initiate confiscation procedures according to the law," he said.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki acknowledged on Wednesday that China has provided a list in the past. She said the two countries have been talking about repatriation and anti-corruption through the China-US Joint Liaison Group on Law Enforcement Cooperation (JLG). The latest meeting of JLG — its 12th — was held in Beijing in early December.

"At the most recent meeting the Chinese delegation agreed they will supply us more evidence regarding their priority fugitive cases so that we can increase our focus on the location and prosecution or removal of those fugitives," said Psaki.

"And we continue to encourage China to provide strong evidence and intelligence to ensure that law enforcement agencies can properly investigate and prosecute cases related to the alleged corruption," she said.

Psaki said the US can return fugitives to other countries even there is no extradition treaty, including through immigration proceedings. "But there are a number of steps that need to be taken," she said.

She noted that the US must be satisfied that individuals extradited from the US will receive a fair trial and not be subject to torture and other forms of mistreatment.

In recent years, the US has become the most popular destination for corrupt officials to flee, transferring large amounts of illegal proceeds through various money-laundering schemes and underground banks.

China's central government has intensified efforts to hunt down corrupt officials who fled abroad by launching a major campaign, which aims to bring back a number of suspects this year by coordinating top authorities, China's top anti-corruption body said on Thursday.

The campaign, code-named "Sky Net", which aims to arrest a number of corrupt officials and persuade some who have fled to turn themselves in, will be launched in April, according to an official website.

The government said it is also determined to crack down on underground banks and offshore companies that help officials transfer embezzled money overseas.

Huang Shuxian, deputy director of China's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) and head of the central government's effort to track down fugitive officials and their ill-gotten gains, vowed to intensify efforts to bring back corrupt officials and prevent any more from getting away.

Huang made the promise after announcing the launch of the "Sky Net" campaign, which will involve the country's top court, top procuratorate and the ministries of foreign affairs, public security, state security and justice, as well as the central bank.

The CCDI has a round-the-clock system to receive reports of fugitive suspects from other central and local government departments. It said the commission is also receiving public reports worldwide.

China has signed extradition treaties with 39 countries and criminal judicial assistance treaties with 52 countries. Moreover, it has signed 124 agreements or memorandums with 91 countries, regions and international organizations, the CCDI said.

Since October, Chinese prosecutors have brought back 49 individuals suspected of duty-related crimes from 17 countries and regions, including the US, Canada and Australia.

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