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Anti-graft watchdog to continue tracking down corrupt officials

Updated: Mar 12,2016 7:28 AM     Zhang Yan

Nearly half of corrupt officials who fled overseas are hiding in Western countries, official says

The top anti-graft watchdog will continue tracking down corrupt Chinese officials who have fled overseas.

More than 1,000 economic fugitives were brought back to face trial last year, a senior anti-graft official said.

“At present, nearly half of China’s fugitive corrupt officials are still hiding in Western countries, and we are making it a priority to hunt them down,” said Liu Jianchao, director of the International Cooperation Bureau of Communist Party of China’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

Cai Wei, deputy director at the commission’s International Cooperation Bureau, said China will begin a new “Skynet” initiative, a campaign to gain the return of corrupt officials hiding abroad and confiscate their ill-gotten assets.

During the action, the CCDI will ask Interpol to issue arrest warrants for the most-wanted fugitives who remain at large abroad, and through close supervision ensure that local anti-graft authorities take effective measures. The CCDI will also tighten the management of government officials’ private passports and border control to prevent further corrupt officials fleeing abroad.

Moreover, law enforcement officers will boost efforts to monitor suspicious transfers of fugitives’ fund to their foreign accounts through money laundering and underground banks.

In recent years, the United States, Canada and Australia have become popular destinations for fugitive corrupt Chinese officials because of legal differences between the countries and the lack of bilateral extradition treaties, according to the Ministry of Public Security.

A number of these fugitives have transferred billions of yuan in illegal proceeds to foreign accounts, the ministry said.

In April, Chinese judicial authorities launched the eight-month-long “Skynet” initiative to hunt down economic fugitives and seize their illegal assets.

According to the CCDI, by the end of December, law enforcement officers had brought back 1,023 fugitives for trial, including 240 corrupt officials, from more than 60 countries and regions, including the US and Canada. They seized more than 3 billion yuan ($456 million).

In April, the CCDI issued arrest warrants for a first group of 100 major Chinese corrupt officials at large abroad. To date, 24 of them have returned or been brought back to stand trial, including three who were involuntarily repatriated from the US.

Liu said many corrupt officials are still hiding in the West and “those countries are our priority and difficulty. So we must redouble our efforts to gain their return and increase judicial cooperation with our counterparts there.”

According to the CCDI, China will increase bilateral anti-corruption cooperation with the US, Canada, Australia and Europe on intelligence sharing, evidence gathering and case investigation.

“We will improve communication and start joint investigations with such countries into major and individual cases,” Cai said.

In addition, China will expand negotiations with the US and Canada on drafting and signing bilateral extradition treaties, he said.