China / Government

Sacrifices required as inspectors chase prey

By Zhang Yan (China Daily) Updated: 2014-12-31 07:44

Editor's Note: China's fight against graft is casting a wide net at home and abroad. China Daily tallies the haul.

When police officer Zhang Qiang's 6-year-old daughter developed pneumonia with a high fever and needed to be hospitalized in October, he spent the whole night trying to reach a doctor for an appointment first thing in the morning.

The girl was hospitalized and treated the next day, and he told his wife to take care of her because he had to fly immediately to Thailand to bring back Chinese fugitives.

"Once we receive our orders, we immediately depart for overseas destinations to capture and repatriate suspects," he said.

Zhang is one of the inspectors of "Fox Hunt 2014", the six-month operation launched in July to target financial fugitives overseas and recover their stolen assets.

Like Zhang, other members of the team are required to sacrifice a lot of family and personal time to carry out their mission, which includes bringing former officials suspected of corruption back to the country.

"Although I couldn't accompany my wife to look after our daughter, they understand and support my work," Zhang said.

His undercover unit includes more than 40 police officers from local public security bureaus and the financial crimes investigation department of the Ministry of Public Security.

They operate from a nondescript office in the China Securities Regulatory Commission building, one of the modern structures on west Beijing's well-heeled Financial Street, best known for its banks and financial institutions.

But when I recently visited the office, I spotted signs of the officers' demanding work environment: Beyond the desks and meeting rooms were several folding beds and piles of instant noodles that gave them respite from the long and trying hours needed to nail their prey.

A board next to a map of the world displayed the names of those they have captured, with details of each suspect carefully updated.

"The office is like the command center of a battlefield. We're constantly intensifying our efforts to apprehend the crafty 'foxes'," said Liu Jinguo, deputy secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and vice-minister of public security.

"The average age of the team members is 30, but most of them have received higher education, including PhDs in economics and master's degrees in law. Some are graduates of prestigious UK universities," said Liu Dong, from the ministry's financial crimes investigation department and director of the team.

Sacrifices required as inspectors chase prey

"Many of the fugitives are highly intelligent and have also received higher education, so we deploy officers with doctorates to nab these 'PhD fugitives'," he said.

During the campaign, the team has worked around the clock with local police departments to gather intelligence and comb through leads. Members also communicate with suspects' family members in China to persuade the fugitives to return to the country and come clean, Liu Dong said.

The team has worked with Interpol and judicial departments of other countries, including the United States, Canada and Australia, he said.

"The work is tiring and includes dealing with multiple time zones. Many of the officers have fallen ill," said Shi Lifang, a senior official from the ministry's financial crimes investigation department.

"But none of them asked for medical leave or rest. They remain committed to the mission," she said.

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