Italy extradites one of China's most wanted economic fugitives

Italy extradites one of China's most wanted economic fugitives

One of China's most wanted economic fugitives, who spent 10 years on the run in Italy, has been extradited to face trial, the Ministry of Public Security said on Tuesday.

"It is thought to be the first case in which a European country has approved the extradition of a Chinese economic fugitive in accordance with their laws," the ministry said.

The fugitive, a woman surnamed Zhang, was a former staff member of a financial securities company in Hebei province. Between 2000 and 2005, she allegedly used her position to swindle clients, taking a total of 1.4 million yuan (S$304,173) from their accounts, according to the ministry.

In October 2005, she fled to Italy to avoid the police. Prosecutors in Shijiazhuang, Hebei, issued an arrest warrant charging her with job-related embezzlement.

The ministry also notified Interpol, which served the warrant overseas. In October 2014, Italian police arrested Zhang, and notified Chinese police, who requested cooperation in extradition proceedings.

The United States, Canada, Australia and some European countries have become destinations of choice for Chinese corrupt officials, who transfer illegal proceeds through money laundering schemes and underground banks.

The ministry conducted a half-year-long special campaign last July, dubbed "Fox Hunt", to nab Chinese economic fugitives on the run and to confiscate their ill-gotten assets.

Ministry data show that, by the end of December, 690 economic fugitives, including more than 40 corrupt officials, had been brought back to stand trial from more than 60 countries and regions.

Liu Dong, deputy director of the ministry's economic crime investigation bureau, said that the "authorities are still facing practical challenges in repatriating Chinese fugitives, due to obstacles in laws and different legal procedures between China and other countries". He said China will enhance law enforcement cooperation with relevant countries, with a view toward intelligence sharing and drawing up detailed arrest plans.

To date, the ministry has established law enforcement cooperation with 189 countries and regions and sent 49 police liaison officers to 27 countries and regions to fight cross-border crimes and safeguard the safety of overseas Chinese.

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