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Thursday, December 15, 2016, 09:29

Beijing, Paris agree to more efficient pursuit of corrupt fugitives


Beijing and Paris will strengthen joint investigations of corrupt officials who have fled China, and also improve systems for the return of ill-gotten assets illegally transferred to France, a senior anti-graft official from the Ministry of Justice said.

Chinese judicial officers and their French counterparts will expand intelligence-sharing and evidence-collecting in major cases, said Zhang Xiaoming, deputy director-general of the Judicial Assistance and Foreign Affairs Department at the Ministry of Justice.

They will set up a work team and work closely on investigating, freezing and confiscating the illicit money. They also will establish a quick-response procedure to combat cross-border economic crimes such as telecom fraud, he said.

Zhang said that during a recent meeting in Beijing, law enforcement officers from both countries exchanged views on tracking down fugitives and returning their ill-gotten funds.

"It's more than necessary to share information with our Chinese counterparts in a timely manner and, after obtaining intelligence, such as indications of money laundering or other economic fraud, access our system to continue the investigation," said Robert Gelli, head of the Directorate for Criminal Matters and Pardons of the Ministry of Justice of France.

In recent years, Western countries, including the United States, Canada and some European countries, have become popular destinations for corrupt officials because an absence of bilateral extradition treaties and differences in legal systems make it harder to secure their return, according to the Ministry of Public Security.

Since April 2015, when Interpol issued red notices for the capture of 100 major Chinese corrupt officials, 36 have been returned from over 16 countries and regions — including two from France — to stand trial, according to the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

Two of the most-wanted female economic fugitives await extradition from France to face trial, according to the Ministry of Public Security. One of them is Feng Jinfang, a former private company executive, but the name of the second has not been disclosed. Both suspects are accused of defrauding investors and have been criminally detained in France.

It will be the second time important fugitives from China will be extradited from France since a bilateral extradition treaty took effect in 2015.

Zhang acknowledged that while progress has been made, practical challenges still hinder further judicial cooperation between China and France.

Huang Feng, a law professor at Beijing Normal University, said the priority is to "improve the quality of evidence and offer a complete chain of evidence", including proof that assets were raised illegally, to assist France when their assistance is requested.

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