China gives ‘priority list’ of wanted officials to U.S.

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BEIJING (Reuters) – China has provided a “priority” list to United States of Chinese officials are suspected of corruption and are believed to have fled to the .S., a state-run newspaper said on Wednesday.

Last year, Chinese officials said more than 150 “economic fugitives”, many of them described as corrupt government officials, were in the United States.

Xu Jinhui, head of the anti-graft bureau at the state prosecutor, told the official China Daily that “a priority list of alleged Chinese corrupt officials” believed to be at large in the United States had been provided to U.S. authorities.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department declined to give details of a priority list, but said China had agreed to supply “more evidence regarding their priority fugitive , so that we can increase our focus on the location and prosecution or removal of these fugitives”.

“We continue to encourage China to provide strong evidence and intelligence to ensure that our law enforcement agencies can properly investigate and prosecute cases related to the alleged corruption,” the spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said.

Psaki said whether or not any fugitive was returned to another country depended on whether the United States was satisfied the person would receive a fair trial and not be subject to torture or other forms of mistreatment.

A U.S. official said last month that senior U.S. officials would meet Chinese counterparts in August to discuss the possibility of repatriating Chinese officials who have fled to America with billions of dollars of allegedly stolen government assets.

A U.S. prosecutor said last week the United States may deport to China the ex-wife of a fugitive Chinese official indicted on money laundering and immigration fraud charges.

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However, there is U.S.-China extradition treaty and Western governments have long been reluctant to hand over suspects given concerns about a lack of transparency and due process in China’s judicial system.

Xu said most suspected corrupt officials overseas either worked for the government or state-owned enterprises and took bribes or embezzled public funds. The report did not elaborate.

Xu said Chinese authorities would start legal procedures to confiscate assets overseas “once in possession of solid evidence,” the newspaper said.

Liu Dong, head of the Ministry of Public Security’s economic crimes division, told the China Daily that U.S. authorities were prejudiced against China’s legal system and “mistakenly believe we would undertake unfair prosecution of suspects”.

China has launched a campaign, dubbed Operation Fox Hunt, to hunt down officials and businessmen who have absconded, often taking their ill-gotten gains with them, part of President Xi Jinping’s battle against deep-seated graft.

Separately, state news agency Xinhua said Xu Gang, deputy governor of southern Fujian province, had been sacked after authorities launched a corruption investigation.

Xinhua, citing the Communist Party’s central Organisation Department, said the government had removed Xu’s “leadership position” as he was being investigated for suspected serious breaches of party discipline and the law, the usual euphemism the government uses for graft. The article gave no more details and was not possible to contact Xu for comment.