World / US and Canada

Zhao fraud trial delayed yet again

By LIA ZHU in San Francisco ( Updated: 2016-04-08 10:00

The trial of a former Chinese official and his ex-wife charged with immigration fraud, transportation of stolen funds and money laundering has been adjourned again, this time until Feb 28, 2017.

Qiao Jianjun, who is accused of embezzling funds while serving as director of a grain company in Henan province, is still at large. His ex-wife, Zhao Shilan, was arrested in March 2015 in Newcastle, Washington. The trial, which was originally scheduled for July 14, 2015 at the District Court in Los Angeles, was postponed to April 6, 2016 due to its complexity.

The pair has been one of a few high-profile cases emerging since the Chinese government launched its campaigns "Operation Fox Hunt" and "Operation Skynet" aimed at returning suspected corrupt officials who have fled overseas back to China to face justice.

In March 2015, Chinese prosecutors gave the US State Department a priority list of 150 people it wanted help in finding and in repatriating monies they allegedly embezzled, as well as the suspects. Qiao is on that list.

According to the US attorney's office in Los Angeles, Zhao and Qiao pretended to remain married and lied about the source of Zhao's foreign investments in order to obtain US immigrant visas.

In 2009, the two received visas as a couple and came to the US that October. In mid-2011, Zhao applied to have her green card made permanent.

By early 2012, the pair had about $2.2 million in laundered funds deposited in a Canadian bank account. They purchased property in Seattle and Newcastle in the State of Washington with money Qiao allegedly laundered from fraudulent transactions.

According to China Press' Thursday report, the US court will confiscate a number of properties owned by the pair, including a condo in New York, and a hotel and two houses in Monterey Park, Los Angeles County, with an estimated value of more than $5 million.

If convicted, Zhao faces sentences of five years in prison for the charges of conspiracy to commit international transport of stolen funds and immigration fraud, 10 years for the immigration fraud charge and 20 years for the money laundering conspiracy charge.

China assisted in Qiao and Zhao's case as well as other cases involving suspected corrupt Chinese officials. The country has stepped up its campaign to track down wanted fugitives hiding overseas since Operation Foxhunt was launched in 2014.

The US does not have a formal extradition treaty with China, but alternatives to extradition exist, including deportation for violations of US immigration laws.

According to China's public security ministry, 366 of the 857 suspects apprehended last year surrendered as a result of Operation Fox Hunt.


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