China gives 'priority' list of wanted officials to US

BEIJING (REUTERS) - The Chinese government has provided a "priority" list to the United States of Chinese officials suspected of corruption and are believed to have fled there, a top 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 US.

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 US has been provided to US authorities.

Most suspected corrupt officials overseas either worked for the government or state-owned enterprises and took bribes or embezzled public funds, Xu said.

The report did not elaborate.

Senior US officials will meet their 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 US official said last month.

Xu added that Chinese authorities will start legal procedures to confiscate assets overseas, the newspaper said. "Once in possession of solid evidence, we will initiate confiscation procedures according to the law," he said, again without elaborating.

The US may deport to China the ex-wife of a fugitive Chinese official indicted on money laundering and immigration fraud charges, a US prosecutor said last week.

But there is no extradition treaty between the two countries and Western governments have long been reluctant to hand over suspects because of a lack of transparency and due process in China's judicial system.

Liu Dong, head of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security's economic crimes division, told the China Daily that US authorities are prejudiced against China's legal system and"mistakenly believe we would undertake unfair prosecution of suspects".

The Chinese government 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.

Last week, the Communist Party's anti-corruption watchdog said that 500 suspects were repatriated to China last year, along with more than 3 billion yuan (S$658 million).

The watchdog said that in some instances its officials would give evidence to host countries so suspects could be prosecuted there, or to help with their repatriation.

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