1,300 fugitives returned last year, $152m recovered

A total of 1,300 fugitives suspected of economic crimes, 347 of whom were corrupt officials, returned to China from abroad to face justice last year, according to the country’s top discipline watchdog.

About 980 million yuan ($152 million) of illicit assets were recovered, according to the Communist Party of China Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

Discipline watchdogs have also tightened management of Party and governmental officials so that the number of newly escaped fugitives dropped from 101 in 2014 to only four last year, CCDI figures show. The number was 31 in 2015 and 19 in 2016.

This year, China will further enhance international cooperation in fighting corruption, said a statement adopted at the second plenary session of the 19th CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, which was ended on Saturday.

China is preparing to sign more bilateral or multilateral agreements with other countries in this sector, and will enhance information exchanges and joint investigation especially with Western countries such as the US, Canada and Australia on some major or individual cases, according to the CCDI.

Under the leadership of the CPC Central Committee, we’ll broaden judicial cooperation with relevant countries so that there will be no ‘safe heaven’ for corrupt fugitives, said La Yifan, director of the CCDI’s International Cooperation Department.

In the past years, many Chinese corrupt officials or senior executives of State-owned enterprises have fled overseas to escape legal punishment due to the lack of bilateral extradition treaties between China and other countries, and complex legal procedures.

Since 2014, China has set up a central authorized office responsible for coordinating and directing various departments to hunt down the fugitives, and it has conducted the SkyNet capture operation.

Interpol issued red notices to arrest the 100 most-wanted Chinese corrupt fugitives in April 2015. So far, more than half of them have been returned, including No 1 fugitive Yang Xiuzhu, who was back to China in November 2016 after 13 years on the run in the US.

Under a court ruling in October, Yang, a former official in Zhejiang province, received eight years in prison for embezzling 19 million yuan in public funds and taking bribes of 7.35 million yuan.

Apart from nabbing the fugitives, to improve the procedures to prevent corrupt fugitives from fleeing is also a priority, La said.

Discipline inspectors will work closely with relevant authorities, including the police, personnel departments and the banking system to strengthen management of officials’ private passports and monitor their suspicious assets sent abroad, according to the CCDI.