Sky Net keeps up pres­sure to catch fugi­tives

Documentaries re­view ef­forts to se­cure their ex­tra­di­tion, re­turn of filched funds

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - TOP NEWS - By ZHANG YAN [email protected]­nadaily.com.cn Xinhua con­trib­uted to this story.

“I felt greatly re­lieved af­ter re­turn­ing to China. My life as a fugi­tive had fi­nally ended,” said Huang Haiy­ong, an eco­nomic fugi­tive who was ex­tra­dited from Peru in 2016 af­ter spend­ing 18 years on the run.

Huang, for­mer head of Yuwei Trad­ing In­dus­try Co Ltd in Shen­zhen, Guang­dong prov­ince, stands ac­cused of smug­gling goods worth 1.22 bil­lion yuan ($179 mil­lion) and evad­ing 717 mil­lion yuan in taxes. He fled to Peru in 1998 and was de­tained there in 2008. China then started an eight-year ex­tra­di­tion process for his re­turn to face trial.

Huang’s story was re­lated in de­tail for the first time as China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion be­gan air­ing a five-episode doc­u­men­tary on Thursday on China’s ar­du­ous ef­forts to hunt fugi­tives who fled abroad.

With the sup­port of the Com­mu­nist Party of China Cen­tral Com­mis­sion for Dis­ci­pline In­spec­tion and the Na­tional Su­per­vi­sory Com­mis­sion, the pro­duc­tion team went to 17 coun­tries and re­gions, in­clud­ing the United States, Britain, New Zealand, Kenya and Peru to shoot footage. The se­ries, named Red Notice, cov­ers 15 high-pro­file cases and presents a large num­ber of in­ter­views with Chi­nese and over­seas law en­force­ment of­fi­cers.

To evade ex­tra­di­tion back to China, Huang hired an ex­pe­ri­enced lawyer in Peru. “(The lawyer is) very fa­mous in Peru, and very ex­pen­sive — $30,000 for each court ap­pear­ance. He told me not to worry about be­ing ex­tra­dited, be­cause that’s im­pos­si­ble,” Huang said in the doc­u­men­tary.

How­ever, Huang didn’t ex­pect the process would last for eight years, dur­ing which time he was de­tained in a lo­cal prison.

“I was so afraid. … I couldn’t speak the lo­cal lan­guage and didn’t know what to do. I was sur­rounded by crim­i­nals, most of them drug deal­ers,” he said.

Gao Bo, deputy head of the CPC Cen­tral Com­mis­sion for Dis­ci­pline In­spec­tion group sta­tioned at the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences, said the doc­u­men­tary shows China’s res­o­lute de­ter­mi­na­tion to bring fugi­tives back to face jus­tice, no mat­ter where they escape to.

Last year, China’s global anti-cor­rup­tion man­hunt repa­tri­ated 1,335 fugi­tives and re­cov­ered 3.54 bil­lion yuan in il­le­gal gains, fig­ures re­leased by the CCDI on Thursday show.

They in­cluded 307 for­mer mem­bers of the CPC or govern­ment em­ploy­ees, ac­cord­ing to the CCDI and Na­tional Su­per­vi­sory Com­mis­sion.

Five of the 307 were on the In­ter­pol Red Notice of the 100 Chi­nese cor­rup­tion fugi­tives most wanted by China.

Amid a re­newed anti-cor­rup­tion drive, China has run its “Sky Net” man­hunt pro­gram for four years, fo­cus­ing mainly on track­ing down cor­rup­tion fugi­tives and re­cov­er­ing il­le­gal as­sets from over­seas.

Sky Net has se­cured the re­turn of more than 5,000 fugi­tives from over 120 coun­tries and re­gions, in­clud­ing 56 fugi­tives on the In­ter­pol Red Notice, ac­cord­ing to the CCDI and Na­tional Su­per­vi­sory Com­mis­sion. It has re­cov­ered more than 10 bil­lion yuan.

Min Zhule, deputy head of the CCDI’s In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion Bureau, said Sky Net will con­tinue this year, and ex­tra­di­tions and crim­i­nal ju­di­cial co­op­er­a­tion with for­eign coun­tries will be fur­ther en­hanced to keep high pres­sure on Chi­nese fugi­tives abroad.

More to be done

La Yi­fan, head of the CCDI’s In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion Bureau, called for those who are still at large to re­turn vol­un­tar­ily.

“Fugi­tives should give up the fan­tasy, plead guilty in a timely man­ner and re­turn their ill-got­ten funds to get le­niency in sen­tenc­ing,” he said.

On Aug 23, Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties is­sued a notice ask­ing fugi­tives to re­turn and con­fess their crimes be­fore the end of year.

From that day up to Dec 31, 441 eco­nomic fugi­tives — 117 of them cor­rupt of­fi­cials — re­turned from 46 coun­tries and re­gions, ac­cord­ing to the CCDI.

Huang Feng, a pro­fes­sor of in­ter­na­tional crim­i­nal law at Bei­jing Nor­mal Univer­sity, said that apart from get­ting fugi­tives re­turned, strict man­age­ment of of­fi­cials is also im­por­tant to pre­vent them from flee­ing the coun­try in the first place.

“The au­thor­i­ties con­cerned should care­fully man­age of­fi­cials’ pri­vate pass­ports, re­quire them to de­clare their pri­vate prop­er­ties and tighten bor­der con­trols to pre­vent sus­pi­cious of­fi­cials from flee­ing over­seas,” he said.

In ad­di­tion, China should fur­ther build prag­matic co­op­er­a­tion with other coun­tries to com­bat money laun­der­ing and try to se­cure the re­turn of the sus­pects’ il­le­gal funds abroad.

To that end, China en­acted the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Ju­di­cial As­sis­tance Act in Oc­to­ber. The law pro­vides “a do­mes­tic le­gal ba­sis for en­gag­ing in ju­di­cial co­op­er­a­tion with our for­eign coun­ter­parts to repa­tri­ate or ex­tra­dite cor­rupt fugi­tives, and to seize or re­turn their il­lic­itly gained as­sets”, Huang said.

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