‘Sky Net’ cast over corrupt officials abroad

By Liu Sha Source:Global Times Published: 2015-3-27 0:48:02

Local officials trained in persuading corrupt officials to surrender

China is stepping up its anti-graft campaign by launching a campaign code named "Sky Net" to nab fugitive corrupt officials, the country's top anti-graft body announced Thursday.

The new operation, set to begin in April, follows the previous Fox Hunt operation in 2014 in which 680 officials who fled overseas were arrested.

The main thrust of the new operation will be to capture corrupt officials, crack down on fake passports, bust underground banks, recover assets involved in criminal cases and persuade fugitive suspects to return home, said a statement on the website of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

The tasks will be undertaken by the Organizational Department of the CPC Central Committee, the Supreme People's Procuratorate, the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) and the People's Bank of China, according to a meeting of the central authority's anti-graft coordination group.

The MPS will continue to head the Fox Hunt campaign in 2015 as part of the Sky Net operation.

The far-reaching campaign against corruption began in late 2012, with close to 100 officials of governor or ministerial level being held for disciplinary or criminal investigations.

Efforts are now ramping up to find and bring back suspects who fled the country, often with huge amounts of State assets.

Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed in January to strengthen efforts to chase down fugitive officials and their assets, "placing a net in the sky and on the ground, making sure corrupt officials can't hide in safe havens."

Central and local authorities will closely coordinate and cast the net wide to hold the corrupt officials responsible, Huang Shuxian, deputy head of the CCDI and director of the central authority's anti-graft coordination group, said at the Thursday meeting.

"The ultimate goal is to build a system to prevent corruption, so Sky Net isn't just a campaign, but also a big step toward building that system which will destroy the fantasies of officials that they can be secure in other countries," said Cai Zhiqiang, a professor with the Party School of the CPC Central Committee.

Local governments at every level must also participate in the new campaign.

From Tuesday to Friday, 130 officials from courts, prosecutors, public security departments and disciplinary inspection committees from some provinces and regions gathered in Beijing to receive group training on how to capture fugitive suspects and recover transferred assets.

The officials were taught techniques on how to persuade fugitive officials and their families to return home and surrender, a lecturer at the training course told the Global Times on condition of anonymity.

Experience was accumulated after operation Fox Hunt last year when some 390 of 680 captured officials voluntarily surrendered, the lecturer said.

Officials studied nine methods, which include extradition, persuading officials to return and suing them in local courts, he added.

Huang Feng, director of the Institute for International Criminal Law at the College for Criminal Law Science in Beijing, told the Global Times that local officials should be motivated to provide evidence and other materials needed for repatriation.

While China has extradition treaties with over 40 countries, fugitives can only be brought to trial in nations with no treaty, such as the US, if the evidence is sufficient to satisfy local statutes.

China recently handed the US government a priority list of over 150 high-profile fugitive officials in the US with hopes of bringing them back to China for trial.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Thursday that the Chinese side agreed to supply more evidence regarding the priority fugitive cases "so that we can increase our focus on the location and prosecution or removal of these fugitives."

Central authorities will handle international negotiations under the auspices of Sky Net and will lay down the general framework for lawsuits and repatriation, said Huang.

Officials at local levels are responsible for laying the groundwork for individual cases.

This will include evidence gathering or negotiating with the fugitives or their families to return.

On March 18, the US Justice Department indicted fugitive Chinese official Qiao Jianjun and ex-wife Zhao Shilan on immigration and money-laundering charges.

This is the first indictment of a fugitive Chinese official since 2006 in the US.

Qiao, a former grain reserve director at the State-owned China Grain Reserves Corporation, fled with 300 million yuan and is still at large. Zhao is under arrest without bail.

Gao Bo, an anti-graft expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that this case shows that China-US anti-corruption has been enhanced, and sends a clear signal that the US is not a safe haven for Chinese corrupt officials.


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