China`s top smuggler repatriated from Canada to face trial
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Last Updated: Saturday, July 23, 2011, 18:09
Beijing: China's smuggling kingpin Lai Changxing was repatriated back from Canada on Saturday, bringing to an end more than a decade of legal and diplomatic tug-of-war that tested the countries' relations.

As 53-year-old Lai, who is the chief suspect of a multi-billion-dollar smuggling case in the southeastern city of Xiamen in the 1990s, was brought here from Vancouver by Canadian official at the Beijing airport the Chinese police announced his arrest and took him into custody, an official statement here said.

"Lai's repatriation once again shows that no matter where a criminal suspect flees, he or she cannot evade legal sanctions in the end," it said.

It said the Chinese government has attached great importance to Lai's extradition in recent years. The relevant departments have made unremitting efforts to "crackdown severely on economic crimes and to honour the dignity of national judicial sovereignty and law," the statement underlined.

Thirty-one criminal suspects believed to be connected with Lai's smuggling operation have been sent back to China from overseas since April 2001, according figures from the country's General Administration of Customs.

Lai, who was extradited 12 years after he fled to Canada, is accused of leading China's most notorious smuggling operation.

The alleged smuggling operation in Xiamen, a coastal city in southern China, was valued at USD 10 billion, according to government-run Xinhua news agency.

Lai, along with his then wife, two sons and one daughter fled to Canada in 1999 on a tourist visa.

Since then, he has fought his deportation in one of the country's longest extradition cases.

China has been seeking Lai's return to face charges of smuggling, bribery and tax evasion.

Canadian officials had been unwilling to allow Lai's extradition because he could have been sentenced to death. But in 2007, China promised not to sentence Lai to death in order to gain his return.

The Canadian court verdict on Thursday, made after more than three hours of hearings, ended all legal proceedings related to the case.

Welcoming the Canadian court verdict, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement that "the Chinese government's position is very clear that Lai should be deported to China and put on trial."

Police statistics in 2010 showed that there were nearly 600 Chinese suspects at large overseas wanted for economic crimes, mostly graft.

With the assistance of bilateral judicial cooperation and Interpol, the world police body, only a fraction of Chinese fugitives have been repatriated, a fact which has "encouraged" some corrupt officials from China to flee overseas to escape due punishments in China.

In light of that, China had taken the repatriation of corrupt officials as a priority of its international judicial cooperation plan, the news agency report said.


First Published: Saturday, July 23, 2011, 15:42

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