China has announced an extension to its Fox Hunt operation in the form of Operation Skynet. The operation appears to signal a further redoubling of Chinese efforts to repatriate fugitives suspected of corruption. The Chinese authorities have repeatedly stated that no corrupt officials are safe and has stressed that its hunt includes both “tigers” (former high ranking officials) and “flies” (low ranking officials such as local government workers and teachers).
In recent years China has made increased efforts to sign extradition agreements with other countries but recent news coming out of China suggests that an absence of such a treaty will not prevent the active pursuit of individuals under the Fox Hunt and Skynet operations.
In addition to seeking ad hoc extradition agreements one tactic of the Chinese authorities has been to provide host governments with packages of evidence of alleged immigration offences by the target fugitives in the hope that the individuals will then be deported to China or other third countries.
The publicity campaign that has accompanied this latest crackdown is another part of the methodology employed by China. Where it is not possible to secure extradition or indeed to push for deportation the Chinese authorities have sought to ‘persuade’ fugitives to return to China. Extraordinarily high sentences are routinely imposed for corruption in China. Officials abroad are targeted with offers of significant discounts for those who return voluntarily and cooperate. The Chinese authorities are quick to publicise their successes and portray a life on the run as a bleak and unsustainable struggle.
The third prong to their approach has been to threaten to seize the foreign assets of fugitives. This focus on proceeds of crime and money laundering may secure cooperation from western governments more easily than requests for extradition and, in any event, further serves to increase the pressure on fugitives thereby increasing the likelihood that they might cooperate with the authorities.
This weekend The Independent newspaper reported that the Chinese government has asked the authorities for help to return some 50 alleged fugitive officials from the UK. It remains to be seen whether this request for cooperation will be acceded to but the vigour with which the Chinese authorities are currently pursuing fugitives suggests that the pressure is only likely to increase.
Gherson has defeated politically motivated extradition requests in a large of number of countries and frequently advises individuals subject to INTERPOL Red Notices. Gherson can also advise individuals in connection with deportation and international asset freezing and forfeiture. For a confidential discussion please do not hesitate to contact a member of our team.
10 April 2015