A Chinese woman who was accused of embezzling millions and was on the top of the list of wanted economic fugitives has returned to the country and surrendered to authorities after 13 years on the run.
Yang Xiuzhu, 70, who was once a top official in Wenzhou in Zhejiang province, arrived in Beijing Wednesday from the United States, marking a major victory for China’s anti-corruption authorities.
State television showed images of a bespectacled Yang being led off an American Airlines plane and going through immigration, escorted by two guards, Reuters reports.
In April last year, China published a list of 100 of its most wanted corruption suspects who had been targeted with an Interpol red notice, many living in the United States, Canada and Australia.
Yang was ranked number one on the list and is the 37th fugitive to return so far, according to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI).
Chinese officials “introduced relevant policies to Yang Xiuzhu, advising her to abandon her resistance and give herself up, and get lenient treatment in accordance with the law”, the Communist Party’s anti-graft watchdog was quoted as saying in a statement.
Yang fled China in April 2003 after authorities began investigating her alleged involvement in criminal activities. She sought political asylum in France, the Netherlands and then the US.
According to the CCDI, Yang had “taken the initiative to withdraw an application for asylum and made the decision to return to the country and give herself up”.
Yang was accused of stealing US$39 million while serving as deputy mayor of Wenzhou in the 1990s and was overseeing the local construction industry.
Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, said on Wednesday that Yang’s return marks a key breakthrough in Sino-US anti-corruption cooperation.
Yang’s brother, regional official Yang Jinjun, also wanted for corruption, was sent back to China in September 2015, the first time Beijing succeeded in bringing back a suspect from the United States.
China has pursued an overseas search dubbed “Operation Fox Hunt” for corrupt officials and business executives who have fled abroad with their assets, part of President Xi Jinping’s war on corruption.
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