CCDI shows progress in hunt for corrupt officials

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As the G20 throws the spotlight on global anti-corruption efforts, China has released fresh data on its progress in capturing former officials accused of fleeing abroad with billions in public money.

The nation is more than two years into an intensive campaign to track down and repatriate economic fugitives overseas, part of wider measures to tackle graft.

So far, 2,020 economic fugitives, including 342 former officials, have been returned to China from more than 70 countries and regions since 2014, according to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

The top discipline watchdog said also that 7.62 billion yuan ($1.14 billion) in illegal assets had been seized.

China has worked to make corruption a major talking point at the on going G20 Summit in the eastern city of Hangzhou. Cai Wei, joint head of the G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group, said he expects to see world leaders "further implement action plans promised in previous years to improve cooperation in law enforcement, extradition and seizing illegal funds".

"Corrupt fugitives and the cross-border flow of illegal proceeds seriously damage social justice and hinder economic development," said Cai, who is also deputy director of the CCDI's International Cooperation Bureau.

Li Chengyan, head of Peking University's Center for Anti-Corruption Studies, predicted that the summit will result in all members agreeing to a legal definition of corruption, a coordinated mechanism to pursue fugitives and stolen assets, and the implementation of the UN Convention Against Corruption.

At the Business 20 Summit on Saturday, also in Hangzhou, experts agreed that graft "is a barrier to economic growth", said Evelyn Mantoiu, a policy analyst from the University of Sheffield who attended the meeting.

B20 delegates made two recommendations to the G20 regarding corruption: one to strengthen intergovernmental cooperation; the other for leaders to foster a transparent commercial environment.

"Curbing corruption is important, as graft undermines trust, which is a key investment security factor. And it increases transaction costs due to unpredictability," Mantoiu said.

China launched a massive anti-corruption campaign after the new leadership was elected in late 2012. To capture economic fugitives abroad, the government set up the Central Anti-Corruption Coordination Group, led by the CCDI, and launched its Sky Net operation.

"Western countries can't become 'safe havens' for corrupt fugitives. No matter where they have escaped to, we will try every means to bring them back," President Xi Jinping said in 2014.

In April last year, Interpol issued red notices-international arrest warrants-for 100 Chinese fugitives. By the end of July, 33 had been returned from 16 countries and regions, including seven from Canada, the CCDI data show. Two of the 33 have been convicted and sentenced.

Developed countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia and Singapore have become popular destinations for Chinese fugitives due to the lack of extradition treaties.

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