China says to cooperate with US on graft, money laundering

Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama after a joint news conference at the White House on Sept 25, 2015.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama after a joint news conference at the White House on Sept 25, 2015.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

BEIJING (AFP) - China and the United States have agreed to step up cooperation in fighting corruption, money laundering and terrorist financing, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Saturday (Sept 26) following a meeting between their leaders in Washington.

Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up a state visit to the United States on Friday where he met with President Barack Obama. They vowed to fight global warming and halt commercial cybertheft, but exchanged sharp words on human rights and maritime territorial disputes involving China.

Xi has led a crackdown on corruption in China since coming to power more than two years ago and the country is pursuing citizens who have fled abroad in an operation known as "Sky Net" that aims to repatriate allegedly corrupt officials who have fled abroad.

China said on Thursday that a Chinese woman convicted and jailed in the United States for her part in a scheme to steal nearly US$500 million (S$712 million) from a state-run Chinese bank was sent back to China.

A week earlier, the ruling Communist Party said that a former official resident in the US for 14 years and suspected of "corruption and bribery" had also returned to China.

China and the US decided "to take practical measures to handle mutually identified major corruption cases", the foreign ministry said in a lengthy statement on its website highlighting summit outcomes.

"Both sides agree to enhance practical cooperation in corruption prevention, detecting embezzled public funds, exchanging evidence, combating transnational bribery, fugitives and illegal immigrants repatriation, narcotics control, and counter-terrorism," the statement said.

It added that China's Ministry of Public Security and the US Department of Homeland Security will meet at a "mutually suitable time" in the US.

"Both sides welcome recent progress on repatriating Chinese fugitives and illegal immigrants through charter flights and look forward to continuing this cooperation," the statement said.

The "Sky Net" campaign has raised concerns in Australia, where China reportedly dispatched law enforcers to pressure suspects without notifying Canberra.

Most Western countries including the US do not have extradition treaties with China, where courts are overseen by the Communist Party and the use of force by law enforcers to extract confessions is believed to be common.

There is no independent legal oversight of the party's internal disciplinary investigations, which deny corruption suspects access to lawyers.

The statement also said that Chinese and US financial intelligence units will sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to exchange information on "money laundering and terrorist financing".

They will "cooperate on the collection, analysis and exchange of financial information related to money laundering, terrorist financing, and related crimes on a reciprocal basis", the statement added, citing the MOU.