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Over 600 fugitives returned

A total of 602 fugitives suspected of duty-related crimes were returned to China in the first half of the year, with 15.1 billion yuan (US$2.34 billion) in illegal gains recovered, the country's anti-graft authorities said on Monday.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China and the National Supervisory Commission said the figure included 164 Party members and government staff members.

An operation to hunt down fugitives and their illegal gains that was launched by the Fugitive Repatriation and Asset Recovery Office of the Central Anti-Corruption Coordination Group in March will last until December. Four working groups were sent to provincial-level regions to investigate and supervise key cases.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China and the National Supervisory Commission said the figure included 164 Party members and government staff members 

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The operation targeted those who have fled in recent years, rank above county level, and whose cases involved a lot of money and caused a bad political influence and strong public reactions, the watchdogs said.

The amount of stolen assets recovered in the first half of this year dwarfed the 2.95 billion yuan recovered in the whole of last year, and was the highest since the Fugitive Repatriation and Asset Recovery Office was founded in 2014, official data showed.

The increase in recovered money was due to the precision of the search and a crackdown on money laundering channels, including using offshore companies and underground banks to move illicit money abroad or through the new method of virtual currency, the watchdogs said.

In a case revealed by the watchdogs, Qiu Tangshan, the controller of Meifang Industrial in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, who surrendered to the authorities and returned to China in April, was suspected of money laundering related to a bribery case.

In August 2019, when local anti-graft investigators were looking into a State-owned enterprise leader suspected of corruption and bribery, they found Qiu had helped the official cover up more than 10 million yuan of illicit money and was suspected of money laundering. Qiu didn't cooperate with the investigation and fled abroad.

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Qiu helped corrupt officials to cover up their criminal gains, and transfer and launder the money, which opened the door for corruption and had a very bad social impact, said Ge Xifang, deputy head of the Jiangsu fugitive repatriation office.

Luo Weimin, one of China's most-wanted graft fugitives suspected of duty-related crimes, had returned and surrendered to the authorities 15 years after fleeing China, the watchdogs said at the end of last month.

Luo used to own a private company based in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, and allegedly offered bribes to leaders of a State-owned enterprise.