180 economic fugitives back in China to face trial

180 economic fugitives back in China to face trial
A suspect surnamed Duan is repatriated on Aug 30.

CHINA - Authorities in China have succeeded in getting extradited or persuading 180 economic fugitives to return to China and face trial since launching a campaign called "Fox Hunt" in July.

The number of the fugitives being repatriated during the first 100 days of the "Fox Hunt" is more than that of the whole year of 2013. The returned suspects include many alleged corrupt officials who fled to more than 40 countries and regions, including the US, Canada, Australia and Southeast Asian nations. Among the fugitives, 104 were hunted down by the police and 76 were persuaded to return. Forty four are suspected to be involved with ill-gotten assets over 10 million yuan (S$2.09 million).

China's Public Security Ministry initiated a six-month operation called "Fox Hunt" to target economic fugitives, especially corrupt officials, who fled abroad with their illicit assets. A special unit was set up by the ministry to oversee the operation. It comprises experienced police officers from the Economic Crimes Investigation Bureau and local public security departments.

According to the ministry, some corrupt Chinese officials have fled to the US, Canada, Australia and Southeast Asian countries in recent years, transferring assets worth many billions of dollars overseas through money laundering and underground sources.

Police in Australia and China recently pledged to cooperate on the extradition of Chinese economic fugitives, including many corrupt officials, in an effort to tackle the difficulties over the return of suspects due to a lack of bilateral extradition treaties.

Four of China's top governmental departments released a statement this month urging fugitive economic criminals to surrender themselves to justice.

The announcement is another move to reinforce the "Fox Hunt 2014" campaign.

Economic fugitives involved in criminal cases which have been listed or investigated can turn themselves in to the police, the procuratorate, the courts directly or through China's embassies and consulates before December 1, 2014.

Fugitives who have confessed their crime and returned to China voluntarily shall be given a lighter or mitigated punishment by law. Among them, those who actively retrieve and compensate the economic losses of the victims may get an even lighter sentence with lesser offenders receiving exemption from punishment.

More corrupt Chinese officials are likely to be repatriated by an anti-corruption and transparency mechanism being worked on by 21 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies.

US senior official for APEC Robert Wang said at the Foreign Press Center in Washington that the goal of the current work in the Anti-Corruption and Transparency network is to increase the possibility or probability that illegally obtained funds or criminals that go across international borders will be returned and will be treated according to the rule of law in whichever country they came from.

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