‘Most wanted’ fugitive official surrenders

By Yang Sheng and Shan Jie Source:Global Times Published: 2016/11/17 0:13:39

Yang Xiuzhu, who tops the list of China's most wanted corrupt officials, signs to turn herself in upon arriving at Beijing airport on Wednesday after 13 years on the run. Photo: Xinhua

Yang Xiuzhu, who tops the list of China's most wanted corrupt officials, signs to turn herself in upon arriving at Beijing airport on Wednesday after 13 years on the run. Photo: Xinhua

One of China's most wanted fugitive officials returned to the country from the US on Wednesday, as experts hailed an example of successful international cooperation in anti-graft efforts, while warning of challenges in the future.

Yang Xiuzhu, who has been on the run for 13 years, arrived at Beijing Capital International Airport to turn herself in to the authorities, according to the Communist Party of China's disciplinary watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Yang, 70, was former deputy director of the construction bureau in Wenzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province. She fled China in April 2003 after graft inspectors began investigating her involvement in embezzlement.

Yang Xiuzhu topped a list of 100 most-wanted corrupt officials released by Chinese authorities via an Interpol "red notice," and is the 37th to return to China so far. The CCDI hailed Yang's return as "an important achievement in anti-graft law enforcement cooperation between China and the US."

According to the People's Daily on Wednesday, the amount of embezzled money involved in Yang's case was 253.2 million yuan ($37 million). Yang's assets were frozen or confiscated in accordance with the law.

During over a decade on the run, Yang had hidden in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Singapore, France, the Netherlands, Italy and Canada, and had applied for asylum to France and the Netherlands, but failed.

She entered the US from Canada in 2014 on a fake Dutch passport, and applied for asylum again.

In June 2014, China notified the US of Yang's entrance to the country through the China-US Joint Liaison Group (JLG), and Yang was detained shortly after. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) accused Yang of "violating the terms of the Visa Waiver Program," and requested that the immigration court deport her, according to  Xinhua.

The US is a major destination for corrupt Chinese officials and economic fugitives but through the JLG, China has worked closely with the US to apprehend and extradite them. Some on the Interpol "most wanted" list were repatriated to China in 2015.

China and the US will outline priorities for cooperation at the 14th meeting of the JLG on Law Enforcement Cooperation from November 21 to 22, foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said Tuesday.

Using local laws

"This case is a good example of international cooperation on anti-corruption," Huang Feng, head of the Institute for International Criminal Law at Beijing Normal University, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

"Although China has no extradition treaty with the US, they can still work together under the framework of International Law and the declarations of international conferences such as the G20," said Zhuang Deshui, deputy director of the Research Center for Government Integrity Building at Peking University.

According to the CCDI, Yang initially insisted that she would rather die than return to China, but she softened her stance and eventually withdrew her asylum application and voluntarily turned herself in.

"On China's side, we affirmed Yang has surrendered to justice; on the US side, they treated this as a case of illegal immigrant repatriation," Huang said. "This is a constructive and pragmatic cooperation that will provide a successful model for future pursuit evasion."

However, Huang added that Yang's case doesn't mean China's cooperation with other countries on anti-corruption is guaranteed to be successful in the future. "Some people … believe they have enough resources to stay in the foreign country and have already built a close relationship with the local government," Huang said.

China has no extradition treaties with the US, Canada and Australia, the top destinations for corrupt fugitives. These nations are favored by Chinese suspects as they can use complex regulations on extradition and jurisdiction to their advantage.

Due to this, and a lack of cross-border coordination, China's attempts to secure the extradition of many fugitives have been thwarted, allowing some officials to hide in plain sight, Xinhua reported.

"When we are dealing with these people, we should not only rely on persuasion and pressure to get suspects to surrender," Huang said. "We should prepare legal weapons and learn local law seriously to get them back."

Newspaper headline: ‘Most wanted’ corrupt fugitive surrenders

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