North American nation one of main destinations for corrupt officials fleeing mainland and agreement said to be first of its kind China has signed with another country
By Zhuang Pinghui
South China Morning Post
China has signed a treaty with Canada, one of the main destinations of Chinese corruption or fraud suspects fleeing the country, to allow the return of stolen assets, state media reported.
If the source of ill-gotten gains cannot be verified, the two nations will share the assets.
The treaty on the sharing and return of forfeited assets was signed during Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to Canada this week.
It is the first agreement on assets recovery China has signed with another country amid Beijing’s high-profile global hunt for corruption fugitives.
“This agreement has provides an effective legal measure between China and Canada to confiscate the criminal proceeds transferred to the other country and opened doors to more such cooperation with other countries,” Sun Ang, an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was quoted as saying by the Legal Daily on Friday.
Canada, which has no formal extradition treaty with China, signed a treaty on mutual legal assistance in criminal cases with the mainland in 1994, the first such pact China signed with another country, the report said.
China and Canada have been discussing a pact on recovering illegal assets since 1996, but closer trade
ties between the two nations made the need for a treaty increasingly urgent and many rounds of negotiations were conducted since 2008, said Sun.
“This is a strong signal for the criminals that countries overseas are no longer a safe harbour for their criminal gains. Do not have the illusion that their family can still sit on the mountain of silver and gold after suspects are caught,” Sun said.
The agreement stipulates that assets should be returned to their legitimate owners if ownership is confirmed.
If the source of criminal proceeds cannot be identified, the country seizing and holding the assets will share them with the other. The proportion of assets shared will depend on how much cooperation the other country gave in the investigation.
Ideally all criminal gains should be returned, but under most circumstances this was an impossible goal and sharing the assets ensured China got back the most criminal gains possible, Sun was quoted as saying.
China’s anti-corruption agency said earlier this month that one third of the nation’s most wanted corruption fugitives had been returned to the mainland.
Over the past two years since setting up a team to chase graft suspects across the globe, the body has returned to China 1,915 people from more than 70 countries, along with 7.47 billion yuan (HK$8.7 billion), it said.
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