Lai Changxing could face life in prison

08:51, July 26, 2011      

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Lai Changxing, one of China's most wanted fugitives, may face life imprisonment after he was repatriated to China on Saturday, law experts said.

The 53-year-old was arrested by Chinese police as he arrived at the Beijing Capital International Airport under Canadian police escort.

The repatriation of fugitive Lai Changxing shows the resolution of China and Canada to honor the dignity of law and punish crimes, said a statement issued by China's Ministry of Public Security on Saturday.

His repatriation, made after a federal court upheld his deportation order on Thursday, ended his 12-year life on the run in Canada.

Canadian officials had been unwilling to allow Lai's extradition as he could have been sentenced to death. However, in 2007, China promised not to sentence Lai to death in order to gain his return.

"China will fulfill its promise. And what Canadian authorities have done shows their increasing confidence and trust in China," Vincent Yang, professor and chair of International Law at the Macao-based University of Saint Joseph and an expert invited by Canadian authorities for Lai's case, told the Global Times.

"Lai, a non-violent criminal, may face life imprisonment in China, a sentence Canadian authorities said they were willing to accept," Yang said. "Lai's exemption from the death penalty will encourage other countries to send back Chinese suspects hiding there."

"It's also a warning to the suspects, as they will know that wherever they go, sooner or later they will be sent back to their home country," he added.

China's progress in criminal law in recent years also determined that Lai will not be sentenced to death. The country's amendments to the Criminal Law, which took effect on May 1, already eliminated capital punishment for 13 economic crimes, including some of those for smuggling, according to Wang Sixin, a law professor at the Communication University of China.

Lai's alleged smuggling operation in Xiamen, a coastal city in Fujian Province, mostly between 1996 and 1999, was valued at $10 billion, which would be China's biggest economic crime case since 1949 if Lai is convicted.

Since Lai fled the country, Chinese authorities had repeatedly demanded his extradition.

"Lai's repatriation through years of efforts by the Chinese government displays its resolution in cracking down on economic crime cases," Wang told the Global Times.

However, Wang Zhenyu, director of the public policy decision-making center at the China University of Political Science and Law, expressed concern that the public may not be satisfied by the exemption as "Chinese people hate corruption so much."

China's anti-smuggling agency is conducting a further investigation into Lai's case, which will be referred to judicial organs after the investigation is concluded, according to the country's General Administration of Customs.

Xinhua contributed to this story

Source: Global Times
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