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China to put more focus on retrieving illicit assets overseas in global hunt for corruption fugitives

China will step up efforts to recover stolen money taken overseas as part of its crackdown on corruption, state media said, after officials warned of the difficulty of tracking graft suspects and their illicit assets abroad.

Securing ill-gotten wealth from corrupt officials who have fled the country has been part of China’s multi-agency “Sky Net” campaign launched in 2014, although the authorities have touted the return of hundreds of fugitives.

China has been trying to get increased international cooperation to hunt down corrupt officials since President Xi Jinping began a war against graft nearly four years ago.

But some Western countries have been reluctant to help, not wanting to send people back to a country where rights groups say mistreatment of criminal suspects remains a problem, plus complaints that China is unwilling to provide proof of their crimes.

China to keep up overseas graft hunt down to last fugitive – even if ill-gotten gains are gone

Huang Shuxian, the deputy head of the graft-busting Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, also warned in April the task recovering money was very difficult.

“While the previous priority was collecting evidence in overseas manhunts, the recovery of assets acquired illegally in China will be a new anti-corruption initiative in the coming months,” the official English-language China Daily newspaper reported on Wednesday, citing an unnamed senior public security official.

The official said police would work with China’s central bank to crack down on officials who have transferred billions of yuan in illegal funds to foreign accounts through money laundering or underground banks.

“Several more fugitives will be extradited from Europe and South America in the near future,” the newspaper cited the official as saying.

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China does not have extradition treaties with the United States, Australia or Canada, which according to state media are popular destinations for its suspected economic criminals.

Beijing instead has turned to persuasion to get some people back.

A man on China’s list of 100 most wanted corruption suspects abroad voluntarily returned to China from Canada, the authorities said in June, without elaborating on the reasons why he had done so.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday Canada would stick to high standards when deciding whether to return Chinese citizens after the two countries agreed to start talks about an extradition treaty.