Ex-official sent back to China by Singapore

Ex-official sent back to China by Singapore

Singapore has repatriated disgraced official Li Huabo, believed to be the first Chinese fugitive returned by the Republic under China's current anti-graft campaign.

He was on the list of 100 wanted fugitives released last month by China, as part of its extensive overseas hunt for corrupt officials.

Six of them allegedly escaped to Singapore. Li, 54, had fled to Singapore in 2011 after obtaining permanent residency for himself and his family a year earlier.

He is the second person out of the 100 named to be repatriated, said Chinese media reports.

Li, a former financial bureau official from central Jiangxi province, was flown back to Beijing on an Air China flight yesterday following his release from jail in Singapore.

Li had been serving a 15-month jail sentence, for receiving $182,700 in his Singapore bank account, said to have been stolen from the Chinese government. It is a fraction of the 94 million yuan (S$20 million) that Beijing alleges he has embezzled over five years.

"Following his release, Li was sent back to China as he has no valid grounds for further stay in Singapore," a spokesman for Singapore's Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) told The Sunday Times.

Photos in Chinese media showed Li being marched down the stairs of the plane when he arrived in the capital Beijing in the afternoon, with a police officer on each side.

In an interview with Communist Party paper People's Daily after that, he said he had been "anxious and unable to sleep" since he fled the country, because he had done something against his conscience.

He also confessed to being corrupt and expressed remorse. "I'm willing to come back to be investigated, to explain my act and turn over a new leaf."

Beijing Normal University law and anti-corruption expert Huang Feng, who was consulted by the Chinese authorities on Li's case, told The Sunday Times that China and Singapore co-operated closely on the case.

It had asked the Singapore authorities to freeze and confiscate Li's ill-gotten assets in Singapore, which they successfully did last month, Chinese media reports say.

Li is the first person in China to have his assets frozen and confiscated under a law enacted in 2012, which allows the authorities to take such actions on graft suspects before they are found guilty in court, said Dr Huang. It applies to assets in China and abroad, and to suspects who have died or fled the country.

Singapore has also stripped Li and his family of their permanent residency status. ICA said Singapore PRs convicted of a criminal offence will have their PR status reviewed by ICA.

Li qualified for PR in 2010, after he invested $1.5 million in an approved fund in Singapore.

chengwee@sph.com.sg

kxinghui@sph.com.sg


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