Date
23 October 2017
China has been able to catch up with some runaway officials and businesspeople by revoking the suspect's passport or travel document. Photo: Xinhua
China has been able to catch up with some runaway officials and businesspeople by revoking the suspect's passport or travel document. Photo: Xinhua

China’s most wanted: Sunny spots for shady people

It’s almost a cliché: A once soaring mainland cadre or entrepreneur falls foul of corruption investigators and aims to fly the coop before the police clip his wings for good. 

But to where can he take flight? The usual destinations for the big boys are without doubt Hong Kong, the United States, Canada, Australia and Western Europe. But the fleeing “flies” of corruption campaigns also have options thanks to a number of less-developed small countries.

Mainland media reported this month that Chinese police caught up in Uganda with the young Zhejiang mastermind behind a series of illegal fundraising schemes. And two brothers who absconded with a bundle of loans were deported after being found soaking up the sun in Vanuatu.

Shanghai police claim to have tracked down 14 fugitives from economic crimes this year from hideouts in such places as Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and the United Arab Emirates.

In all, the long arm of Chinese law has dragged 730 suspects back to the mainland from 54 countries since 2008, according to Xinhua. Many of the alleged offenders made a beeline for Southeast Asia, so much so that the ministries of foreign affairs and public security are working with those countries to deport groups of alleged offenders at a time.

Beijing has bilateral extradition agreements with 37 countries, but so far not with the United States, Canada and many European Union member countries. The main sticking points for these deportation deals are disagreement over suspects that are either political targets or could be sentenced to death. 

Still, there are workarounds. One has been for China to revoke the suspect’s Chinese passport or other travel document, making him an illegal immigrant in the host country. From there, the two countries can try to reach an agreement on a handover.

That was the case with Lai Changxing, the Yuanhua Group founder who was the kingpin of a massive smuggling ring based in Fujian before he fled to Canada in 1999. Lai was deported to China this way in 2011 after the Chinese government assured Canada that he would not be executed.

– Contact the writer at [email protected]

SK

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