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Singapore returns confiscated assets

By Zhang Yan | China Daily | Updated: 2017-03-11 06:57

Singapore judicial authorities confiscated and returned 12 million yuan ($1.73 million) in illicit assets to China involving one of the country's most-wanted economic fugitives, according to the Supreme People's Procuratorate on Friday.

Li Huabo, 54, a former government official in Poyang county, Jiangxi province, returned in May 2015 after spending four years on the run in Singapore. In January, he was sentenced to life in prison by a court in Jiangxi for corruption.

"It's a typical case between China and Singapore to enhance judicial cooperation on information sharing, confiscating and recovering the ill-gotten assets," said a senior official at the SPP's anti-corruption and bribery bureau who declined to reveal his name.

Statistics released by the SPP show that last year 44 corrupt officials had returned from 19 countries and regions to face trial, including the United States, Canada and Singapore.

Meanwhile, national prosecutors confiscated 550 million yuan ($79.5 million) in illegal assets.

According to the SPP in January, the top prosecuting department and the top court issued a statement that clarified the procedure through which Chinese judicial authorities will start to confiscate the ill-gotten assets of suspects who die or flee overseas and cannot participate in court hearings.

"The introduction of such a statement will provide a legal basis for Chinese law enforcement officers to recover the illicit assets," said Huang Feng, law professor from Beijing Normal University.

"Although the fugitives cannot attend court hearings, prosecutors will immediately start the procedure to confiscate the illegal funds and the judges will make a court ruling. They then will offer relevant evidence to their foreign counterparts to request judicial assistance in freezing, seizing and recovering the dirty money sent abroad," he said.

In the high-profile case, Li Huabo, who was accused of embezzling 94 million yuan, fled China in 2011 and obtained permanent residence in Singapore, but later was captured by local police at a casino. In 2014, a court in Singapore sentenced him to 15 months in prison for money laundering.

A court in China ruled the assets Li transferred overseas should be confiscated, even though he did not participate in the court hearing. China then offered solid evidence to Singapore, including a request for their assistance to freeze and confiscate the assets.

According to the SPP, China has started a new round of Skynet action between March and December to fight economic fugitives and recover their ill-gotten assets.

During the action, national prosecutors will beef up cooperation, especially with Western countries, on confiscating and returning the illicit assets, while taking effective measures to prevent corrupt officials escaping overseas in the first place.

(China Daily 03/11/2017 page7)

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