China hunts corrupt officials who abscond overseas
Tong Yanbai, board chairman and general manager of the state-owned Highway Development Co.ltd in central China's Henan Province, absconded with a huge sum of money on New Year's Day.
The information was confirmed by Wang Shangyu, Procurator-general of the Henan Provincial People's Procuratorate at a press conference held during the Second Session of the 10th National People's Congress.
Including Tong, the Henan Province has had more than 190 officials who fled abroad for fear of being charged with corruption.
"The number of Chinese corrupt officials who run overseas has increased since 2000, the year Hu Changqing, former vice-governor of Jiangxi Province, was sentenced to death for corruption. The case was a great deterrent force to corrupt officials," said Prof. Wang Minggao with Hunan University and the leader of a state- backed anti-corruption strategy research program.
The exact number of corrupt Chinese officials who had fled overseas has not been disclosed by China so far, but Chinese anti- corruption experts have worked put a "modus operandi" for fugitive officials. They first search for an ideal fugitive destination under the name of overseas work investigation, then send relatives to the targeted country and finally transfer an immense sum of money to overseas banks before fleeing themselves.
Tong followed the plan exactly. He got a private passport as early as 1998 and a pass to visit Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions in 2000. Then he arranged for his daughter to study in Australia accompanied by his wife. He fled with a big sum of money from Shenzhen to Hong Kong on Jan. 2, 2004 after one of his trusted followers was arrested for graft.
"Tong's case will be put on file for investigation in the provincial Procuratorate very soon," said an official from Henan Provincial Anti-Corruption Bureau.
The Henan Provincial Highway Development Co.ltd, headed by Tong Yanbai was established in 2000 and was attached to the Provincial Communications Department, with capital of 23 billion yuan.
To date, how much bribery Tong received at his post is still not clear, but the Xuluo Highway, a state-level highway in Henan province constructed under Tong's leadership, has been repaired four times due to poor construction. And it is believed that he received a large amounts of bribes during the public bidding for the road construction.
Prof. Zhou Qihua with the State Procurator College said the fugitive corrupt officials were mostly around 45 to 50 years old, and a big percentage of them were top leaders in state-owned enterprises.
Beijing Municipal People's Procuratorate had more than 120 cases relating to fugitive corrupt officials in 2001, up to 70 percent of whom were former general managers, deputy managers and financial affairs staff in state-owned enterprises.
Prof. Ren Jianming with Qinghua University said China had only signed extradition conventions with 19 countries so far, and most of them were developing countries, not the ideal fugitive destination for officials.
"Most officials chose developed countries that did not have extradition conventions with China as their destination. Therefore, it is very difficult to bring them back," he said.
Li Yong Zhong, China's noted anti-corruption expert with the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said the loopholes in the administrative and judicial system give opportunities for officials to run abroad with large sums of money.
He said in China, before the suspected corrupt officials' case was filed in the Procuratorate and entered judicial proceedings, the Discipline Inspection Commission carried out an investigation first, which gave officials time to flee before being put under judicial investigation.
"But only if the fugitive's case was filed in China's judicial system before he fled, could other countries send the fugitive official back," Li said.
However, Wang Minggao said China is stepping up its efforts to block fugitive officials from escaping overseas.
In August 2003, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) formally ratified the United Nations Convention Against international Organized Crime, signifying an important move by China to promote global cooperation in combating international organized crime.
At the end of 2003, China signed the United Nations Convention against Corruption. The pact requires signatory governments to enact minimum legal standards against corruption, protect whistleblowers and assist other countries in detecting the flow of illicit funds.
In early 2004, US president George W. Bush ordered that public officials guilty of corruption be barred entry to the United States.
Jia Chunwang, Procurator-general of the Supreme People's Procuratorate said China brought back 596 fugitive corrupt officials from overseas in 2003..