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Chinese courts convict 15 returned fugitives

By Zhang Yan | | Updated: 2017-05-10 19:16

Fifteen of the 40 most-wanted corrupt officials who have returned to face trial in China have been convicted and sentenced, the nation's anti-graft watchdog said on Wednesday.

Sentences ranged from life in prison to no further punishment due to good behavior.

Nine other defendants have been tried and are awaiting a verdict, according to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

Prosecutors decided not to bring charges against two suspects, while the indictment against Gu Zhenfang was dropped. Gu died in Thailand in 2006.

"The punishments reflect China's rule of law," a source with the CCDI's International Cooperation Bureau said. "Those who return voluntarily to confess their crimes will be given more lenient sentences within the scope of the law. Those who are captured will face more severe penalties."

In recent years, a large number of corrupt Chinese officials and State-owned company directors have fled abroad to countries such as the US and Canada to avoid legal punishment.

They have also transferred large amounts of illicit funds to foreign accounts through money launderers and underground banks, the Ministry of Public Security said.

President Xi Jinping launched a sweeping anti-corruption campaign in late 2012. To capture economic fugitives abroad, the country launched the Sky Net operation in 2014.

In April 2015, Interpol issued red notices — international arrest warrants — for the 100 most-wanted Chinese fugitives.

To date, 40 have returned from more than 16 countries and regions, including high-profile targets such as Yan Yongming, former chairman of Tonghua Golden-Horse Pharmaceutical Industry Co in Jilin province, who was convicted of embezzlement on Dec 22.

Due to his decision to return voluntarily after 15 years on the run, Yan received a lenient sentence of three years in prison, suspended for three years. The court also confiscated 329 million yuan ($47 million) in illegal assets.

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