Fewer graft suspects fled in 2016 as anti-corruption drive continues

Source:Xinhua Published: 2017/4/26 18:43:42

Yang Xiuzhu, then the most-wanted graft suspect, returned to China from the US in November 2016, and turned herself in to the authorities. Yang was once a deputy director of Wenzhou's construction bureau in East China's Zhejiang Province and had been on the run for 13 years. Photo: IC

 The top anti-graft body of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on Tuesday said the number of corrupt officials fleeing overseas saw a drastic decrease last year, as the country's anti-corruption campaign continues to gain momentum.

In a report posted on its website, the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said a total of 19 suspects fled China last year, compared with 31 in 2015 and 101 in 2014.

"The sharp drop in numbers ... indicates that important progress has been made in the current stage to return graft fugitives and their illicit gains from overseas," the report read.

Tigers and flies

China is in the middle of an anti-corruption campaign targeting both high-ranking "tigers" and low-level "flies," the terms assigned to different officials depending on their rank and level of corruption.

With the space for graft and power abuse narrowed at home the country is also increasingly looking to international cooperation to apprehend suspects abroad.

An operation codenamed "Sky Net" was launched in 2014, and an office for capturing suspects and recovering ill-gotten assets abroad was established, comprising personnel from eight Party and government departments including the CCDI, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in addition to the country's top court and procuratorate.

Provincial authorities also set up special offices at the local level to assist the search, the report said.

Meanwhile, a database has been established to manage information on corrupt officials who have fled overseas, and a system to receive information from the public was set up.

As a result, close to 2,900 graft fugitives who had fled to over 90 countries and regions were returned to China by the end of March this year, the CCDI report said.

Some 9 billion yuan ($1.31 billion) of illegal assets have also been recovered, it added.

Among those returned include 40 corrupt officials listed in an Interpol "red notice" of China's top 100 fugitives.

In particular, Yang Xiuzhu, then the most wanted on the list, returned to China on November 16, 2016 and turned herself in to the authorities after spending 13 years on the run.

The CCDI noted that most of the returned corrupt officials on the "red notice" had been persuaded to turn themselves in.

In the latest case, Li Shiqiao, former general manager of a real estate company in Ningbo, East China's Zhejiang Province, returned from Canada and turned himself in earlier this month, after fleeing the country in April 2009.

International cooperation has also played a significant part in the office's work, the CCDI noted in the report.

It said anti-corruption and law enforcement cooperation between China and other countries including the US, Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand has yielded positive results.

So far, 48 countries have signed extradition treaties with China, while anti-graft bodies from over 90 countries and regions have established friendly ties with their Chinese counterparts.

Beijing has also helped form a cross-border law enforcement network to strengthen transnational anti-corruption cooperation.

During the APEC meeting in Beijing in 2014, the Beijing Declaration on Fighting Corruption was adopted, which aims to eliminate corruption through extradition and judicial assistance and more flexible legal measures to recover stolen money.

Last year, G20 leaders also endorsed the High Level Principles on Cooperation on Persons Sought for Corruption and Asset Recovery, and the 2017-2018 G20 Anti-corruption Action Plan in Hangzhou, Zhejiang.

China will continue to maintain an "iron hand" to return graft fugitives and their illicit gains from overseas, and promote transnational anti-corruption cooperation, the CCDI report said, citing an unnamed official.

Newspaper headline: Can’t run, can’t hide

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