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Criminals 'can't hide' from justice
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08:29, January 31, 2008

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Crime suspects who flee abroad to evade punishment will not escape justice, a senior police official said yesterday.

"Justice is only a matter of time," Wu Heping, a spokesman for the Ministry of Public Security, told a press conference.

He said 56 suspects in economic crimes were repatriated last year from more than 20 countries and regions, including South Africa, the Philippines, Thailand and Myanmar.

"It's a significant achievement," Wu said without giving figures for the previous years.

Intensified international cooperation is the major reason for the achievement.

"To deal with the problem of suspects fleeing abroad, we have strengthened cooperation with our foreign counterparts on extradition, repatriation, intelligence exchange and the recovery of money," Wu said.

He said China has developed a working mechanism with many countries, including the United States, Canada and the Netherlands, to deal with those who had fled.

Negotiations on individual cases have also been intensified with Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Japan and the Republic of Korea.

Ministry figures released last year show more than 800 suspects accused of embezzling some 70 billion yuan ($9.7 billion) worth of property and cash had fled abroad, 500 of whom are still at large.

Among them is Lai Changxing - China's most wanted man.

The key figure in the country's most notorious smuggling case in Xiamen, Fujian province, Lai is accused of smuggling $10 billion worth of goods including cars and cigarettes in collaboration with corrupt officials. He fled to Canada in 1999 with his family, and has been trying to gain refugee status there.

However, experts said there are still problems to overcome when tracking down suspects in foreign countries because of the different judicial systems.

Many countries are unwilling to repatriate suspects because they may face the death penalty, which has been abolished in most countries, Xiang Dang, a professor with the Chinese People's Public Security University, said.

There are also differences on how to handle property and money seized abroad.

"China requests repatriation of all illegal proceeds seized, but some countries insist on retaining a share," Xiang said.

The ministry also said yesterday that police busted about 84,000 cases of economic crime last year, up 4.2 percent on 2006. Tax evasion, fraud and illegal fundraising were all rising, it said.

Wu said economic crimes have been rising sharply since 2004, and the growth is expected to continue.

On a more positive note, the ministry said serious crimes such as bombings and murder fell considerably last year.

Source: China Daily

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