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People's Daily Online

Xinhua Insight: China in fresh overseas fugitive hunt to contain corruption

People's Daily Online

(Xinhua) 08:23, April 02, 2015

BEIJING, April 1 -- The Fox Hunt 2015 campaign must close all exits for fugitives as China seeks to drive corruption into extinction, an anti-corruption expert has said.

The Ministry of Public Security (MPS) campaign officially began on Wednesday, following last year's campaign that saw 680 economic suspects,corrupt Party members and government officials return to China.

Huang Weiting of Qiushi, a Communist Party of China Central Committee (CPC) magazine, said that the number of returnees was only a very small portion of the number of such fugitives.

Key goals of the campaign is to squeeze the space for fugitives overseas and deter potential economic criminals.

'The overseas assets of China's state-owned enterprises were rarely audited, and even now auditing efforts fall short. More companies expanding overseas means more transnational economic activity,' Huang told Xinhua Wednesday.

More corrupt officials are joining the transnational economic flux to transfer assets, and Fox Hunt is way to arrest that trend, part of a larger campaign codenamed 'Sky Net' that combines government, Party, law enforcement agencies, the central bank and diplomatic services.

The MPS plans to preventing private overseas trips without proper visas and the illicit transfer of money via offshore companies and underground banks. To prevent more corruption-driven flights, high-level officials who have sent their families abroad are a special focus of attention. Such 'naked' officials are banned from promotions and from 'important and sensitive' posts in areas like the military, diplomacy and national security.These people often use their families as a conduit to transfer assets abroad, in preparation for their own flight.

Naked does not necessarily mean corrupt, but some of them definitely have the tendency to flee, Huang said. Regular official supervision and public scrutiny are needed to keep them in check.

In December last year, more than 3,200 'naked' officials at county-level or above were identified, among which, some 1,000 held key positions. Those whose families refused to return were demoted.

A PIECE OF THE ACTION

The campaign is expected to run more smoothly with wider international cooperation. The UN recommends a ratio between leading countries and cooperative ones on how to divide confiscated assets.

'Some cases can get quite difficult, and cooperative foreign countries may get a larger share if their law enforcers have offered greater help,' Huang said, adding that China is increasingly open to such negotiations.

'Superficially, our country might be at a disadvantage, but through such cooperation, other countries will become more active in helping us seize suspects and assets, and put the frighteners on potential runaways.'

Huang revealed that China and Canada had reached agreement to carve up the spoils, but did not specify the ratio. The United Statesand China have been engaging in regular cooperation, including hunting fugitives in the United States.

Last week, U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said China should provide more evidence on priority fugitive cases to help the U.S. prosecute or extradite suspects.

Switzerland signed an automatic information exchange agreement last year to provide details of some bank accounts, effectively ending the protection enjoyed by economic criminals by Swiss banks.

PURSUIT & PERSUASION

For Fox Hunt 2015, the MPS want equal focus on seizing suspects and retrieving assets, through the dual efforts of pursuit and persuasion.

'2014 turned out a very good year for persuasion. It is much easier if the suspects return on their own free wills and we don't have to resort to judicial procedure,' Huang said.

Huang noted that extradition via judicial channels is cumbersome since few countries have extradition treaties with China and some are reluctant to cooperate due to political concerns.

'In that case, we publicize the wanted list across the world and alert other countries so that the suspects become unwelcome guests, even though we can't catch them right now,' Huang said.

'These thieves should never be allowed to live happily ever after in a foreign mansion. Only by cutting off the exits routes can we end corruption,' he added.



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