Fugitive 'fox' returns to face punishment in China

Fugitive 'fox' returns to face punishment in China
Two economic fugitives (second and fourth left) are repatriated on Aug 3 from Cambodia after fleeing overseas with illicit assets.

CHINA - Another Chinese 'fox' returns home to face consequences of financial scandal, reports Zhang Yan in Beijing.

'I can finally sleep well tonight. I won't have to worry about where to hide to avoid being arrested," said Zhu Yujie as he stood on Chinese soil for the first time in 10 years.

The former trading company manager fled the country in 2004 after his role in a $24 million (S$30.4 million) financial scandal was uncovered.

"I feel so sorry for my wife and my weak and elderly parents, but especially for my son," he said, relating how his fraudulent activities and subsequent flight had resulted in his son being refused entry to the police, despite having graduated from a local police college.

"Only by returning and confessing, will I be able to end my life of crime and start over," he said, as tears rolled down his face.

Zhu, in his 50s, gray-haired, with bloodshot eyes and heavily lined features, appeared exhausted.

"During years of hiding in Cambodia, life was really tough without stable work or an income," he said. "The language barrier and cultural differences made it impossible for me to integrate, and I hardly had any contact with my family in China."

In Cambodia, he used a Guinea-Bissau passport, and moved from town to town to avoid attracting attention.

"I mainly depended on the funds I'd transferred to keep going. I was kidnapped and subjected to extortion by local mafia-like groups. I almost lost my life," he recalled, adding that his driver was murdered by one of the gangs.

Fraud and forgery

In 2003, when he was working as the manager of a trading company in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, Zhu colluded with staff at a local construction bank branch to misrepresent the rates of return for savers and forge official seals on cash-withdrawal documents. The scam netted the participants a total of 150 million yuan ($24.2 million).

When the fraud was uncovered, Zhu initially fled to Indonesia, before moving on to Thailand, the Philippines and, finally, Cambodia in an attempt to keep one step ahead of the law. The Chinese police notified Interpol, which issued a red notice, or international arrest warrant, for Zhu.

However, worn down by his years on the run, he called the Chinese police in July and pledged to return and confess his crime. He arrived back in China, accompanied by police officers, on Aug 3.

Zhu is one of the 88 so-called economic fugitives who have been repatriated since July, when the Ministry of Public Security initiated a five-month-long operation code named "Fox Hunt 2014" to track down economic fugitives, including lots of corrupt officials who have fled abroad with illegally obtained assets.

As part of the operation, the ministry has sent dozens of special police units to more than 40 countries and regions to apprehend suspects.

"The economic fugitives seem like the crafty foxes who have fled overseas to avoid punishment, but we-the wise hunters-will nail them," Liu Dong, deputy director of the economic crime investigation department under the Ministry of Public Security, told China Daily in an exclusive interview. "No matter where they are, or who they are, we will catch them," he said.

Flight to 'safety' In recent years, a large number of economic fugitives have escaped overseas, transferring huge amounts of illegal assets, and attracting widespread public and media attention, both at home and abroad.

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