Chinese man wanted on corruption charges is returned from US
BEIJING (AP) — One of China’s most-wanted fugitives suspected of graft and bribery was brought home Friday from the U.S. to where he’d fled in 2001, in what Beijing called a victory in its efforts to gain greater cooperation from Washington on repatriating accused criminals.
Businessman Yang Jinjun — the brother of a former deputy mayor wanted for embezzlement — is the first person to be repatriated to China from the U.S. since the “Sky Net” operation targeting 100 fugitives was launched in April, the Ministry of Supervision said.
Beijing and Washington have no extradition treaty. The U.S. has been reluctant to send back Chinese fugitives, citing shortcomings in China’s rule of law, opaque courts, and poor human rights records. That has made the U.S. a top destination for Chinese fugitives.
Beijing portrayed Yang’s return as a sign of progress in boosting U.S.-China law enforcement cooperation.
“The repatriation of Yang Jinjun fully displays the increasing support that China has won over from the global community toward its efforts in chasing down fugitives and illicit gains,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.
It wasn’t clear under what circumstances Yang had been handed over to the Chinese authorities, although the ruling Communist Party’s corruption watchdog body said he was forcibly repatriated.
Washington has said it is willing to fight crime with Beijing, but also has demanded solid evidence on suspects who have absconded to the U.S.
As part of its anti-corruption campaign, China has sought to repatriate businesspeople and government officials accused of economic crimes. The Sky Net operation follows the 2014 “Fox Hunt” campaign that caught 680 fugitives, according to China’s Ministry of Public Security.
Sky Net targets high-profile fugitives, such as Yang’s sister Yang Xiuzhu, who has been detained in the United States but is seeking political asylum. She is wanted in China for embezzling more than $40 million while she was deputy mayor and held another top post in the eastern city of Wenzhou.
It wasn’t clear if her brother also sought political asylum in the U.S. Yang Jinjun also faces embezzlement charges that likely are connected with his sister’s alleged crime, although there’s little detail.
China hopes the Sky Net and Fox Hunt campaigns will deter corrupt officials from fleeing the country.
“It shows that no matter how far and how long the corrupt officials have fled away, we have the ability to hunt them down,” Hong, the spokesman, said.
The last prominent repatriation case out of the United States was in 2004, when Chinese bank executive Yu Zhendong, accused of embezzling $485 million with other defendants, was sent back on the condition that Yu would not be tortured or given the death penalty, which can be applied in China even for non-violent white-collar crimes.
Two years later, a Chinese court convicted Yu and sentenced him to 12 years in prison, a penalty widely considered lenient by Chinese standards.