China's most-wanted overseas fugitive confesses to corruption: Xinhua

BEIJING (REUTERS) - A Chinese woman who topped a list of China's most-wanted overseas fugitives confessed in court to corruption on Friday (July 28), state media said, eight months after she turned herself in.

Yang Xiuzhu, a former deputy mayor of Wenzhou in the booming eastern province of Zhejiang who was on the run for more than 13 years, confessed to corruption and bribery charges during a trial held on Friday, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Prosecutors told the Hangzhou Intermediate People's Court that Yang, who also held senior positions in Wenzhou's construction bureau, abused her position to embezzle public funds and receive bribes totalling 26.4 million yuan (S$5.3 million). She fled China in 2003, Xinhua said.

Yang admitted her guilt and expressed remorse, the report said. Her sentence would be handed down at an unspecified later date, the news agency said.

Reuters was not able to determine who was representing Yang in court or if she had to use a government-appointed lawyer.

The report did not explain why the amount Yang was charged with was significantly less than the US$39 million she was originally accused of stealing.

In April 2015, 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 returned to China from the US in a blaze of publicity last November after turning herself in.

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 deep-seated corruption.

As of last month, 41 on the list of 100 most-wanted have returned to China, according to the country's anti-corruption watchdog.