Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Good omen for 'Fox Hunt'

By Zhuang Deshui (China Daily) Updated: 2014-12-15 08:02

To bring back corrupt officials who have fled abroad, China must sign more extradition and asset-recovery pacts with other nations

The basic principle of modern justice, that illicit property shall be confiscated or returned to the victims, applies to not only domestic but also international laws. Chapter V of the United Nations Convention against Corruption contains the basic principles that signatory countries should abide by while taking legislative and other measures so that when another signatory party seeks assistance they can help it recover the assets it has lost because of corruption.

China has suffered heavily because of corrupt officials and criminal suspects who, according to a 2011 People's Bank of China report, have fled abroad with at least 800 billion yuan ($128.8 billion). "Fox Hunt 2014" has succeeded in bringing back only some of the corruption and criminal suspects who have fled abroad. Most of the corrupt officials are still at large and the wealth they have illegally amassed is far from being recovered.

The case of Bo Xilai, former member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, is an apt example. While he was facing trial last year, the court found that his wife and co-accused Gu Kailai had purchased a luxurious villa in France, but up to now the illegal asset has not been confiscated.

There are reasons why corrupt officials' illegal assets abroad are difficult to seize. The legal prerequisite for recovering officials' illicit assets is a court verdict declaring them guilty of corruption. Without such a verdict, Chinese judicial officials cannot approach their foreign counterparts for help. And since the majority of corrupt officials are yet to be arrested, China cannot recover their ill-begotten assets.

Another problem is that even if a Chinese court rules that an official is guilty of corruption, foreign courts could refuse to accept the verdict, either because of misunderstanding or for lack of trust in China's judiciary.

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