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Friday, January 25, 2019, 14:54
Scores of fugitives returned
By Zhang Yan, Zhang Yi and Zhang Yangfei
Friday, January 25, 2019, 14:54 By Zhang Yan, Zhang Yi and Zhang Yangfei

Yang Xiuzhu surrendered in 2016 and was imprisoned for eight years for embezzlement and accepting bribes. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

More than 1,300 fugitives, including 307 corrupt government officials, were repatriated to face trial in China last year as the National Supervisory Commission made progress in promoting law enforcement cooperation with other countries.

The commission said 1,335 fugitives were brought back to China in 2018, with over 3.5 billion yuan (US$515 million) in ill-gotten gains recovered. The number of fugitives and amount of funds recovered rose by 3 percent and 261 percent, respectively, year-on-year.

La Yifan, director of the Communist Party of China Central Commission for Discipline Inspection's International Cooperation Bureau, said, "The successful extradition and repatriation of the fugitives demonstrates the country's resolute determination to fight crossborder corruption. In particular, since the country started to reform the anti-graft system in March, the newly established supervisory commission has turned its institutional advantage into effective governance."

The CCDI said 5,201 economic fugitives were returned to face trial from 120 countries and regions from June 2014 to the end of 2018, including 1,063 corrupt officials

Since late 2012, when the current leadership took office, the anti-graft campaign has been a top priority nationwide. In October 2017, President Xi Jinping said during the 19th CPC National Congress, "No matter where fugitives escape to, we will make every effort to capture them and bring them to justice."

At international forums, Xi has stated repeatedly that China will strengthen law enforcement cooperation with other nations to combat cross-border corruption and dissuade other countries from offering safe havens to fugitives.

ALSO READ: CCDI says working on global efforts to snare fugitives

In 2015, China launched the Skynet campaign to apprehend fugitives and confiscate their illicitly gained assets.

The commission said 5,201 economic fugitives were returned to face trial from 120 countries and regions from June 2014 to the end of 2018, including 1,063 corrupt officials. At the same time, 13.16 billion yuan in illicitly gained assets was recovered.

The CCDI added that local branches were set up nationwide and the Supervision Law took effect in March. Under this law, the commission coordinates with other authorities to strengthen judicial cooperation in the fight against corruption, the investigation of cases and the extradition of fugitives.

Jiang Laiyong, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' China Anti-Corruption Research Center, said, "Since the commission set up branches, the country has integrated anti-corruption resources, and judicial officials will send professional investigation teams to improve the capability to seize fugitives and recover their ill-gotten gains."

According to the National Commission of Supervision, last year China signed five new extradition treaties, four judicial assistance agreements and four financial intelligence exchange agreements with other countries.

READ MORE: China sets model for global anti-corruption cause

The International Criminal Judicial Assistance Law, which took effect on Oct 26, provided judicial officials with the authority to combat cross-border corruption.

It clarified the conditions and procedures for repatriating criminals as well as specifying the duties of each judicial department. It also made clear the procedures for investigation requests and the collection of evidence generated by China or other countries.

Twelve fugitives in six nations, including South Korea, Bulgaria, Spain and Portugal, were also extradited to China last year.

In 2015, Interpol issued Red Notices for the 100 most-wanted corrupt Chinese fugitives. To date, 56 have returned to the country from more than 17 nations and regions to stand trial.

An Interpol Red Notice is a request to locate and provisionally arrest an individual pending extradition.

Yang Xiuzhu (PHOTO / XINHUA)

Yang Xiuzhu

China's most-wanted fugitive Yang Xiuzhu surrendered in 2016. She was imprisoned for eight years by a court in Zhejiang province in 2017 for embezzlement and accepting bribes, after hiding overseas for decades.

Born in 1946, 72-year-old Yang is a former vice-mayor of Wenzhou, Zhejiang, and also a former deputy director of the province's construction department.

No 1 on the list of China's top 100 fugitives released by Interpol in 2015, Yang started her life on the run in 2003 when she faced accusations of embezzling about 250 million yuan for personal use.

Over the next 13 years, Yang went to Hong Kong, before fleeing to Singapore, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Canada and the United States. She decided to surrender in November 2016.

Yang had sought refuge in the Netherlands, where she was stranded for 11 years without a legal identity. With China stepping up efforts to promote international judicial enforcement cooperation, Dutch police detained Yang in 2014, but she managed to escape and arrived in the US by faking her identity and passport.

Chinese investigators had traced her whereabouts by the time she arrived in New York, where she hid out at the home of her brother. China asked the US to repatriate her and offered evidence, including proof of embezzlement and cross-border money laundering.

ALSO READ: 15 of China's most-wanted are convicted

Cai Wei, deputy director of the International Cooperation Department at the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the top anti-graft watchdog, said on a China Central Television program recently that police detained Yang and agreed to repatriate her immediately. However, she filed an appeal and sought asylum in the US. She also resisted fiercely, hitting her head against a wall, Cai said.

In 2014, the 12th China-US Joint Liaison Group on Law Enforcement Cooperation meeting was held at which an investigation team was set up and China also sent personnel to the US to carry out field investigations. Yang's illicit gains were frozen.

Yang, held at a correctional center after several failed attempts to secure bail, eventually abandoned her asylum application and returned to China.

She pleaded guilty and expressed remorse at her trial. Her illegal gains of 26.4 million yuan were recovered.

Yan Yongming (PHOTO / XINHUA)

Yan Yongming

Yan Yongming, a graft fugitive with New Zealand citizenship, surrendered in 2016 before returning to China after 15 years on the run, thanks to the close cooperation between police in both countries. More than 130 million yuan (US$19 million) was returned to China.

Born in 1969, Yan is a former chairman of Tonghua Golden-Horse Pharmaceutical Industry Co in Jilin province. In 2015, he ranked No 5 on Interpol's list of the 100 most-wanted Chinese corruption fugitives by Beijing, for allegedly embezzling more than 180 million yuan.

He fled in 2001, first to Australia, under the name of Liu Yang, before gaining New Zealand citizenship. He was known in New Zealand as Bill Liu and also as William Yan.

China asked New Zealand to repatriate Yan, providing evidence that he had been granted citizenship under a false identity. He was later charged with immigration fraud, but was acquitted in 2012 by a local court.

With the help of Chinese police, New Zealand officers launched an investigation in 2014 into Yan's alleged money laundering, and traveled to China several times to collect evidence.

After the investigation, New Zealand police announced a forfeiture order against Yan for 42.85 million New Zealand dollars (US$29 million).

In 2015, New Zealand charged Yan with money laundering. Starting in May 2016, China sent working groups to meet with Yan before he decided to surrender and return home in November 2016.

Due to his decision to return voluntarily after 15 years on the run, Yan received a lenient sentence of three years in prison, suspended for three years.

He was sent back to New Zealand after his trial and sentenced to five months' home detention for money laundering. His assets were confiscated and the money seized was shared by the two countries.

Xu Chaofan (PHOTO / XINHUA)

Xu Chaofan

Xu Chaofan, former head of the Kaiping subbranch of Bank of China in Guangdong province, surrendered and returned to China from the US in July after 17 years on the run. More than 2 billion yuan (US$294 million) was recovered.

Born in 1965, Xu faced accusations of corruption and embezzling at least US$485 million in bank funds. He fled to the US in 2001 with two accomplices, Xu Guojun and Yu Zhendong, both former bank managers.

All three men's wives moved to the US through using false identities and sham marriages. The stolen money was laundered through numerous bank accounts in Hong Kong, Canada and the US.

Xu said on a CCTV program that he thought that the lack of an extradition treaty and differences in the two countries' legal systems would make it difficult to catch him.

In 2001, an agreement between China and the US on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters took effect and China asked for help in the case and provided evidence to US police.

Xu was captured and detained by US police in 2004 on charges of racketeering, money laundering and visa fraud.

US judicial authorities told Xu that if he pleaded guilty and agreed to return to China, he could face a lenient sentence, otherwise he would be tried in the US first and then in China.

Xu rejected repatriation and was imprisoned for 25 years by a court in Nevada in 2009.

His case was one of five major ones in which the two countries advanced judicial cooperation after the China-US Joint Liaison Group on Law Enforcement Cooperation meeting in 2014. Xu was on the Interpol list of the 100 most-wanted corrupt fugitives from China released in 2015.

China also sent working groups to meet Xu in prison, telling him that he would still face punishment under Chinese law when he finished his sentence in the US, and advised him to accept repatriation promptly.

His wife was repatriated in 2015, and under pressure from the US and Chinese authorities, Xu accepted repatriation in 2016.

Qiao Jianjun (PHOTO / XINHUA)

Qiao Jianjun

Qiao Jianjun, the former director of a government grain storage facility in Zhoukou, Henan province, fled abroad with more than 300 million yuan in November 2011. China made an extradition request to Sweden, where Qiao was arrested in August.

An investigation by Henan prosecutors found that Qiao defrauded the national grain fund of 700 million yuan by colluding with traders. He sent the money - more than 100 million of which has been recovered - overseas through an underground bank.

Qiao planned his escape carefully. A few years before he fled, he and his ex-wife, Zhao Shilan, and two children secretly obtained US visas. The couple's escape and asset transfers involved more than 10 countries and regions, including Singapore, Canada, Panama, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Sweden.

The couple bought property in the US as investment migrants, falsely claiming that the money was legitimate income. In Seattle, Zhao owned two properties, one of them covering more than 900 square meters.

The couple was found to have bought four residential properties and three commercial premises in the US. Qiao escaped to 13 countries and regions, and made investments in each, including real estate, catering, hotels, tourism, resorts and farms.

Qiao used the pseudonym Li Feng to obtain a passport issued by the Caribbean nation of Saint Kitts and Nevis. His bank accounts and investments abroad were all registered under this name.

In March 2015, the couple was accused by federal prosecutors in California of funneling stolen money into the US and fraudulently obtaining US visas.

It was the first prosecution by the US of a suspected corrupt fugitive from China since the launch of Operation Fox Hunt by China in 2014, aimed at seizing corrupt officials and economic fugitives. Zhao was arrested in the US in March 2015, but Qiao fled to another country in 2012.

China and the US worked together to chase Qiao, with Chinese authorities cooperating with about 20 countries on the case.

In August, Qiao was arrested in Sweden and a photo showed that his hair had turned gray.

Huang Yurong (PHOTO / XINHUA)

Huang Yurong

In December 2015, Huang Yurong, the former Party chief of the Henan Provincial Highway Administration, surrendered to police and returned voluntarily from the US, 13 years after she fled China.

Huang, who was suspected of taking bribes, fled to the US in 2002, using a visa she had gained illegally.

The same year, Huang's husband, former Henan Transport Department head Shi Faliang, was charged by prosecutors with taking 19 million yuan in bribes. In 2006, Shi was sentenced to life imprisonment for corruption by Jingzhou Intermediate People's Court in Hubei province.

During her husband's trial, Huang was in the US, and refused to return to China for investigation.

China provided the US with evidence of Huang's alleged crimes at home and the false information she used when applying for a US visa, in the hope that she would be repatriated.

READ MORE: Overseas hunt for corrupt Chinese fugitives picks up pace

In 2005, the US Customs Immigration Enforcement Agency in Los Angeles arrested Huang and started the repatriation process for an illegal immigrant. However, she hired a lawyer and appealed several times to delay being sent back.

In 2006, an immigration court ruled that Huang could remain in the US. The agency appealed the decision. In 2012, Huang was ordered to be repatriated, but she continued to appeal. Her case remained deadlocked from 2005 to 2015. She was also on the Interpol list of China's 100 most-wanted fugitives released in 2015.

Huang lived under the name of Anne in the US. After the list was released, her photo and real name were disclosed by the media, making it impossible for her to live in a Chinese-American community any longer. Her desperation made Huang consider suicide many times.

At the time, her husband, who was serving his sentence, wrote a 19-page letter to her, trying to persuade her to plead guilty.

Meanwhile, China has resumed the criminal investigation into Huang's alleged money laundering, and has invited US officials to investigate the case in Henan and discuss cooperation.

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