China`s top smuggler repatriated from Canada to face trial

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.

PTI



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

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