CHINA / National

Suspects repatriation shows justice 'will prevail'
By Zhu Zhe (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-05-24 06:32

The increasing number of Chinese criminal suspects being repatriated demonstrates that those who flee abroad to evade punishment will not escape, top officials said Tuesday.

The possible deportation of Lai Changxing, one of the country's most wanted fugitives, now in Canada, is a case in point, said Wu Heping, spokesman for the Ministry of Public Security.

"Justice is only a matter of time," he said.

"To curb the number of criminal suspects fleeing abroad, we have strengthened co-operation with our foreign counterparts on extradition, repatriation, intelligence exchange and recovery of money embezzled," Gao Feng, deputy director of the ministry's economic crime investigation bureau, said at a press conference in Beijing.

He disclosed that 53 Chinese suspects in economic crimes were repatriated last year.

More than 300 suspects have been repatriated from about 30 countries over the years, such as Yu Zhendong, former head of the Kaiping branch of Bank of China in Guangdong Province, who was accused of embezzling US$ 82.5 million in public funds.

Yu was returned to China in 2004 after the government agreed he would not face execution. He was sentenced to 12 years in jail earlier this year for embezzlement.

Ministry figures show that more than 800 suspects, accused of embezzling nearly 70 billion yuan (US$ 8.75 billion) worth of property and funds, had fled abroad and apart from about 320 who have been repatriated, around 500 are still at large.

Ministry officials did not confirm the date when Lai would be deported, only saying that they had noticed media reports on developments in the case.

The Canadian Press, the country's national news agency, reported last week that Lai would face deportation this Friday after a final review known as a pre-removal assessment concluded he would not be in danger if deported to China.

As the kingpin of China's most notorious smuggling case in Xiamen, Fujian Province, Lai is accused of smuggling US$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 in the country.

China has urged Canada to extradite Lai as soon as possible, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao yesterday.

Liu said the Chinese Government had taken a firm stance on the issue and has reiterated its position to the Canadian Government.

"Tracking down suspects who have fled abroad is still difficult due to the different judicial systems of China and other countries," said Xiang Dang, a professor with the foreign-related police affairs department of Chinese People's Public Security University.

Many countries are unwilling to send criminal suspects back to China because they may face the death penalty, which has been abolished or is only applied to murderers in most countries, he said.

"But the recent repatriation treaty between China and Spain shows that there's room for discussion on this issue," he said.

The treaty, the first of its kind that China has signed with a European or North American country, said criminal suspects repatriated from Spain would not be executed.

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

"Currently, China requests repatriation of all illegal proceeds seized abroad, but some countries insist on retaining part of it," Xiang said.

The ministry also announced yesterday that Chinese police busted more than 60,000 cases of economic crimes last year, mostly in finance, trade, taxation and securities sectors.

More than 50,000 suspects were arrested and 14.3 billion yuan (US$ 1.79 billion) recovered.