China and U.S. to boost anti-graft measures

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Senior Chinese and US law enforcement officials have vowed to intensify efforts to fight corruption, including tracking down assets illegally transferred abroad by corrupt officials.

The move comes after China imposed stricter measures to prevent the transfer of assets by corrupt officials. 

In recent years, an increasing number of corrupt Chinese officials and their families have reportedly fled the country after amassing huge amounts of money, with many of them seeking shelter in the West.

David Luna, director for anti-crime programs at the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs under the US State Department, said the US is willing to help track down assets illegally transferred.

"The US has a very good record in denying safe haven to corrupt officials and their families, and we try to go after their assets as well," he told China Daily, stressing that information was the key to success.

"We try to encourage the Chinese government to provide information that is necessary for use in our courts."

China enacted its first formal regulation on managing "naked officials", or officials whose family members had gone abroad, in July in a major step to fight graft.

Some sections of the US media estimated that more than 1,000 corrupt Chinese officials had fled to the US, mostly to Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco.

Song Hansong, deputy director of the Supreme People's Procuratorate anti-dereliction and infringement department, said corrupt officials who fled abroad should be brought to justice, otherwise it would undermine the judicial authorities. "China will work together ... with the international community to ensure an effective crackdown on corruption," he said.

There is a proven track record of cooperation between the two countries in fighting graft. China and the US had successfully prosecuted corrupt Chinese officials who fled to the US, and this "illustrates how the two countries can work together on these types of issues", Luna said.

One of the major cases that showed the positive results of cooperation occurred in 2008 when a US federal jury in Las Vegas convicted Xu Chaofan and Xu Guojun, the masterminds of the 2001 "Kaiping case", of defrauding the Bank of China (BOC) of $485 million over a period of 10 years. Their wives were also found guilty. The two men were sentenced to more than 20 years in jail in May 2009.

The significance of the case rested on the fact that Chinese officials helped US authorities collect important evidence against the Xus and their wives in China, and they were considered the first major Chinese bank criminals to face charges in the US, although Washington had previously repatriated a few corrupt officials.

Even though the two countries established "very good" relations in fighting corruption, ties were only formalized five years ago. In 2005 leaders from both sides agreed to strengthen cooperation under the US-China Anticorruption Working Group of the Joint Liaison Group for Law Enforcement Cooperation, said Luna, the co-chair of the working group.

Since then, officials from China's Ministry of Supervision and the National Bureau of Corruption Prevention have met their US counterparts at the State Department and Justice Department annually.

Officials from both countries also coordinated their efforts through the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum and conducted workshops on how to tackle corruption.

"We have had much success and fruitful cooperation over the past five years," Luna said.

The two sides have established a "really good trust" but the whole relationship is still "very new", he said.

"We hope to build on the success of the BOC case and hope our Chinese counterparts will present the dossiers of facts for new cases."

To collect and provide information the US can act on, Chinese officials need to understand the quality of information and evidence needed to support law enforcement in the US, he said.

"So that's why a bilateral framework and mechanism is so important. It not only develops trust between the two sides, but at the working level it helps China understand our systems and what kind of information is needed for prosecution and for our courts."

To achieve this goal, a Chinese delegation will visit the US State Department, as well as the departments of justice, treasury and homeland security this week (Sept 8-10).

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