China brings back 61 suspects to be tried for graft

China brings back 61 suspects to be tried for graft
Some of the 100 most-wanted corrupt Chinese officials who have fled overseas.

CHINA - Chinese prosecutors have brought back 61 suspects accused of corruption from 20 countries and regions, the top prosecution body said on Monday.

The countries include the United States, Canada and Italy, with prosecutors confiscating 629 million yuan (S$134 million) in illegal funds, according to the Supreme People's Procuratorate.

Nine of the 61 fugitives were seized when they passed through China's exit and entry border inspection stations.

Another 47 were persuaded to return to China between September and March to face trial, six times the number of fugitives seized each year for the past 10 years, according to the SPP.

Most of the fugitives seized in the past six months are suspected of bribery, embezzlement, abuse of power and corruption, Xu Jinhui, director of the SPP's Anti-Corruption and Bribery Bureau, told a news briefing on Monday.

Prosecutors in Henan province captured Zhang Zhaohui, former vice-chairman of China CITIC Bank's Zhengzhou branch, after he spent several years on the run overseas. Zhang is suspected of embezzling 320 million yuan.

Prosecutors in Tianjin persuaded Zhang Lianxiang, former general manger of a construction company in the city, to return to China from Canada to face trial. Zhang is suspected of abuse of power and embezzling 80 million yuan.

In recent years, the US, Canada and Australia have become popular destinations for corrupt Chinese officials who have transferred large amounts of ill-gotten gains through money laundering and underground banks.

Since September, national prosecution departments have conducted a nationwide campaign targeting suspected corrupt officials who are still at large overseas and confiscating their illegally acquired assets.

The SPP has asked prosecution departments in border areas, including Heilongjiang and Yunnan provinces, to work closely with their counterparts in countries including Russia, Myanmar, Laos and Thailand in the hunt for corrupt Chinese officials.

Prosecuting authorities in Guangdong, Zhejiang and Fujian provinces will liaise with Chinese organisations in the US, Canada and New Zealand on releasing information and persuading Chinese fugitives to come back and confess to their crimes in return for lenient punishment, according to the SPP.

Xu said China will enhance co-operation with other jurisdictions to set up a system for sharing intelligence and will also tighten supervision of suspected corrupt officials to prevent them fleeing. It will improve law enforcement co-operation with some key countries, including the US, Canada and Australia.

Dai Peng, director of the Criminal Investigation College at People's Public Security University of China, said, "It's essential that the authorities set up a mechanism to prevent corrupt officials from fleeing the country."

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