Italy deports first Chinese economic fugitive

By Catherine Wong Tsoi-lai Source:Global Times Published: 2015-2-3 23:48:03

An economic fraud suspect was repatriated to China on Tuesday after ten years on the run in Italy, marking the first extradition of its kind from a European country to China.

The suspect, who has been identified only by her surname Zhang, was once a member of staff at a security company in North China's Hebei Province. She allegedly stole more than 1.4 million yuan ($223,700) from her clients between January 2000 and January 2005, according to a statement released Tuesday by the Ministry of Public Security, Xinhua reported.

Zhang fled to Italy in October 2005. The ministry soon released a Red Notice via Interpol and began to arrange law enforcement cooperation with Italy regarding her case.

Zhang was arrested by Italian police in October 2014, and the country officially decided to extradite her on January 16, 2015, the statement said.

Zhang became the latest suspected economic fugitive to be seized since the "Fox Hunt" operation began last July, an international manhunt that has targeted individuals suspected of economic crimes that are residing overseas. The operation had led to 680 suspects being returned to China in 2014.

Observers have seen the case as a milestone in China's hunt for economic fugitives, many of whom are officials suspected of graft, as China is seeking to cooperate with more countries to bring suspects to justice.

"China has signed extradition pacts with many developing countries in the past, but it has been a lot more difficult for it to reach such consensus with Western countries due to their political concerns," Xue Lei, an international law expert with the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, told the Global Times, noting that some countries don't agree with China's use of the death penalty and are therefore reluctant to extradite fugitives to the country.

China has established law enforcement cooperation with 189 countries and 49 police liaison officers have been sent to 27 countries to help fight international crime, according to the People's Daily. However, some popular destinations for Chinese economic fugitives such as the US and Canada have not signed extradition pacts.

The public security ministry vowed to deepen the cooperation between Chinese police and foreign law enforcement agencies on Tuesday.

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