US helps China catch corrupt officials

08:29, July 29, 2011      

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The United States is cooperating with China to repatriate Chinese fugitives facing corruption charges, a senior US official said yesterday, a move that could pave the way for the return of hundreds of government officials wanted for graft.

US Department of Commerce General Counsel Cameron Kerry, who is in Beijing on a five-day visit focusing on anti-corruption and commercial rule of law issues, said "there's good cooperation" between Chinese and US prosecutors "in finding ways to repatriate corrupt officials or ill-gotten assets."

At a briefing, Kerry told reporters: "Our prosecutors on both sides yesterday discussed a number of specific cases and they look forward to increasing cooperation on those cases."

Some of the cases include US investigations into alleged bribes paid to Chinese officials by companies from the US or registered there, under the Federal Corrupt Practices Act, he said.

He declined to be more specific and said he was not in a position to comment on whether the US was close to extraditing anyone. "The United States currently does not have an extradition treaty with China, but there are other mechanisms available to pursue fugitives," Kerry said.

"Most fugitives from justice immigrated to the United States illegally, many of them have been repatriated through our immigration laws, and deportation, under those laws."

In the past 30 years, about 4,000 corrupt officials have fled China, taking with them about US$50 billion, according to the Party's Central Discipline Inspection Commission.

China has signed extradition treaties with more than 30 countries, mostly its neighbors.

Last weekend, China arrested its most wanted fugitive, Lai Changxing, in Beijing after Canada deported him to end a 12-year fight to have China's most wanted fugitive sent home.

Cooperation between Chinese and US prosecutors began in 2007, Kerry said, adding that there had been "increased energy on the Chinese side" over the past two years that he had been involved in the discussions.

Most of China's fugitives have fled to North America, Australia or Southeast Asia, the Ministry of Public Security said.

Low-ranking corrupt officials would flee to Africa, Latin America or China's neighboring countries first to get a foothold and bide their time before moving to Western nations, experts have said.

In 2004, Yu Zhendong, a former Bank of China manager convicted of offenses in the US before being deported to face corruption charges at home, was sentenced to 12 years in prison. China had promised he would not be tortured or executed.

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