China's most-wanted fugitive set to be extradited by US

China's most-wanted fugitive set to be extradited by US

China's most-wanted fugitive, an official accused of embezzling more than US$40 million (S$54 m), is in US custody and waiting for extradition, Lou Martinez, the spokesman at New York office of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, told chinanews.com on Thursday.

Yang Xiuzhu, who fled China in 2003, was detained after entering the US using a fake Dutch passport last year, according to the Party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI).

In the first confirmation of Yang's whereabouts in a decade, the commission's International Cooperation Department said she escaped from detention in the Netherlands in May 2014 - after being rejected for political asylum and before she could be sent back to China.

Yang, the former deputy Mayor of Wenzhou, East China's Zhejiang province, oversaw construction projects in the booming city in the 1990s. During that time, she made a fortune large enough to purchase in 1996 a five-story building worth US$5 million in midtown Manhattan.

Given the moniker of "Corrupt Queen" by media, she escaped to America when her brother was under probe for corruption in 2003, and was eventually detained in the Netherlands in 2005 after Interpol issued a Red Corner Notice, an international arrest warrant requested by China, against her.

She is in custody at the Hudson County correctional facility in New Jersey, according to a database maintained by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

"The momentum of co-operation with the US is very good," Fu Kui, director of international co-operation at the CCDI, said in an interview in Beijing on Wednesday, in which he discussed China's campaigns to track and return suspects. "There has been some progress and examples of success and there is room for greater co-operation."

Repatriating former officials who have absconded is a key cog of President Xi Jinping's fight against corruption, which he has called a "life and death" matter for the Party and the country. A former deputy mayor of the coastal city of Wenzhou, Yang, 68, was ranked number one on a list of 100 people China says are hiding abroad to avoid prosecution for graft.

Catching these fugitives "is a key aspect of the anti-corruption campaign," Fu said. "If we leave an escape here, we won't be able to deter officials who think they can get away with corruption."

Earlier in May 9, Li Huabo, the second most important suspect from China's "100 most wanted economic fugitives" list issued by Interpol's National Central Bureau of China in April, was repatriated from Singapore after five years on the run.

The CCDI said the publication of the list and the issuance of the notices is part of Operation Sky Net, which started in early April and targets corrupt officials at large in foreign countries with the aim of confiscating misappropriated money and assets.

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