Runaway China official suspected of graft repatriated from Singapore

Li Huabo, a former financial official in the central province of Jiangxi who is suspected of embezzling 94 million yuan (S$20.13 million), fled China in 2011, the official Xinhua news agency said. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Li Huabo, a former financial official in the central province of Jiangxi who is suspected of embezzling 94 million yuan (S$20.13 million), fled China in 2011, the official Xinhua news agency said. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

BEIJING (Reuters, AFP) -  China has brought a former government official suspected of economic crimes back to the mainland from Singapore, the country’s anti-graft agency said on Saturday as the government steps up its fight against corruption.

Li Huabo, an official in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangxi who left for Singapore in 2011, was returned to the mainland on Saturday, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said in a statement on its website.

Pictures posted on the website showed Li being led from an airplane by two police officers and then handcuffed.

The former fugitive was suspected of embezzling 94 million yuan (S$20.13 million) in public funds, the anti-graft watchdog said.

He was apprehended under the “Sky Net” project, which China launched in March to fight international corruption and recover dirty assets.

Li is shown second on a list of 100 wanted people issued in April as part of the campaign, with a photo of him sporting a moustache and a red polo shirt.

The new set of photos posted Saturday on the website of the CCDI showed him appearing older, wearing eyeglasses and handcuffs.

The commission said Singaporean authorities had assisted in the case by freezing Li’s assets and sentencing him to 15 months in jail after China provided “strong evidence” of his crimes. It said Li was flown back to China at the end of his prison sentence.

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

But some Western governments have been reluctant to hand over suspects, citing a lack of transparency and due process in the Chinese judicial system.