China hunts for corrupt officials with strengthened cross-border cooperation

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  BEIJING -- As the deadline China sets for economic crime fugitives to return home looms, the country is calling for more international cooperation.

  China launched its "Fox Hunt 2014" operation in July, targeting corrupt officials and suspects in economic crimes that have fled the country. The goal is to "block the last route of retreat" for corrupt officials as ongoing crackdowns narrow the space for abuse of power.

  Chinese police said last week that 288 suspects had been detained, including 21 that had been at large for more than a decade. Eighty-four were hiding in developed countries such as the US, Canada, Japan and Belgium.

  Related: Spotlight on safe havens for corrupt officials

  Chinese authorities gave criminals hiding abroad, who are mostly corrupt officials, an ultimatum: Give yourself up before Dec 1 to receive more lenient sentences.

  Xu Hong, director of Treaty and Law Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a press briefing on Wednesday that in recent years, especially since the launch of Fox Hunt 2014, China had chalked up great achievements.

  This is not only China's anti-corruption drive, but also plays an integral part in answering the international community's call for strengthened cooperation on the issue, Xu added.

  During the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Beijing earlier this month, the Beijing Declaration on Fighting Corruption was adopted, with APEC members pledging to eliminate corruption through extradition and judicial assistance and more flexible legal measures to recover the proceeds of crime.

  Cooperation mechanisms are now beginning to bear fruit. This year, China finished 10 negotiations on extradition and administrative judicial treaties.

  So far, China has concluded a total of 39 extradition treaties, including 29 that have taken effect; and 52 criminal judicial assistance treaties, with 46 already in force.

  In the meantime, law enforcement cooperation between China and the United States, Canada and Australia, the three major destinations fugitive Chinese corrupt officials head to, are also making steady progress.

  Although there is no extradition treaty between China and the United States, cooperation on the issue began over a decade ago. In 2004, Washington repatriated a bank official suspected of embezzling hundreds of millions of US dollars.

  In October this year, the two countries agreed to strengthen cooperation on the issue.

  Thanks to cooperation between China and Canada, Lai Changxing, a notorious smuggling kingpin, was repatriated in 2011 after hiding in Canada for 12 years.

  In June 2013, China and Canada finished the negotiation of an agreement on sharing and returning recovered assets. It is China's first special agreement on the issue, and it will be signed in near future.

  China and Australia have already signed an extradition treaty, however, the Australian Parliament has yet to ratify it. During his state visit to Australia, Chinese President Xi Jinping raised the issue, and the Australian side said it would accelerate the ratification process, according to Xu.

  Related: Graft fight dents overseas spending

  The United Nations Convention Against Corruption refers to the hunting of fugitive corrupt officials and the recovery of money, however, some obstacles still exist in cross-border cooperation.

  Zhao Yu, a professor with the Chinese People's Public Security University, said that the two countries' political, social, legal and judicial systems were completely different.

  "In specific cases, the two countries may hold different views on procedures or the identifications of crimes," Zhao added.

  The litigation systems and procedures are also different, so that in some countries, like the United States and Canada, escaped suspects can delay repatriation through lengthy court appeals.

  Some countries are reticent to sign extradition treaties with China, with some foreign judges completely rejecting extradition or repatriation to China.

  "In a bid to overcome obstacles, these countries should firstly strengthen political will and abandon prejudice. At the same time, China needs to strengthen communication with these countries, improve mutual trust and appropriately address judicial obstacles in a pragmatic and feasible way," Xu added.

  "It is foreseeable that new breakthroughs will be made in the future. Corrupt officials' attempt to avoid the net of justice is bound to fail," Xu said.

  Source: China Daily


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