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Beijing, Paris agree to enhance pursuit of fugitives

By Zhang Yan | China Daily Europe | Updated: 2016-12-18 15:28

Beijing and Paris will strengthen joint investigations of corrupt officials who have fled China, while improving systems for the return of ill-gotten assets illegally transferred to France, a senior anti-graft official from the Ministry of Justice says.

Chinese judicial officers and their French counterparts will expand intelligence-sharing and evidence-collecting in major cases, says Zhang Xiaoming, deputy director-general of the Judicial Assistance and Foreign Affairs Department at the Ministry of Justice.

They will set up a work team and work closely on investigating, freezing and confiscating illicit money. They also will establish a quick-response procedure to combat cross-border economic crimes such as telecom fraud, he says.

Zhang says that during a recent meeting in Beijing, law enforcement officers from both countries exchanged views on tracking down fugitives and returning their ill-gotten money.

"It's more than necessary to share information with our Chinese counterparts in a timely manner and, after obtaining intelligence, such as indications of money laundering or other economic fraud, access our system to continue the investigation," says Robert Gelli, head of the Directorate for Criminal Matters and Pardons of the Ministry of Justice of France.

In recent years, Western countries, including the United States, Canada and some European countries, have become popular destinations for corrupt officials because an absence of bilateral extradition treaties and differences in legal systems make it harder to secure their return, according to the Ministry of Public Security.

Since April 2015, when Interpol issued red notices for the capture of 100 major Chinese corrupt officials, 36 have been returned from more than 16 countries and regions - including two from France - to stand trial, according to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

Two of the most-wanted female economic fugitives await extradition from France to face trial, according to the Ministry of Public Security. One of them is Feng Jinfang, a former private company executive; the name of the second has not been disclosed. Both suspects are accused of defrauding investors and have been detained in France.

It will be the second time important fugitives from China have been extradited from France since a bilateral extradition treaty took effect in 2015.

Zhang acknowledged that, while progress has been made, practical challenges still hinder further judicial cooperation between China and France.

Huang Feng, a law professor at Beijing Normal University, says the priority is to "improve the quality of evidence and offer a complete chain of evidence" - including proof that assets were raised illegally - to assist France when its assistance is requested.

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