America revealed as top spot for China’s ‘naked officials’

Say you are a corrupt Chinese official and you want to flee to safety. Where do you go? Turns out the U.S. is a popular choice.

Chinese passportLet’s say you are a corrupt Chinese official and you want to flee to a safe haven. Where do you go?  

One place is the United States. 

China Daily, a state run newspaper, reported that more than 150 of what it calls “economic fugitives” – allegedly corrupt officials or those suspected of graft – remain at large in the United States. Liao Jinrong, an official with the Chinese Ministry of Public Security, told the publication that “the U.S. has become the top destination for Chinese fugitives fleeing the law.”   

One big attraction for these allegedly corrupt officials is that China has no extradition treaty with the U.S. Even more, foreign governments are also reluctant to hand suspects back to China where they could face the death penalty. So far, according to the publication, only two fugitives have been brought back to China to stand trial in the last decade.  

“We face practical difficulties in getting fugitives who fled to the US back to face trial due to the lack of an extradition treaty and the complex and lengthy legal procedures,” Mr. Liao was quoted as saying. Another Chinese official with International Cooperation Bureau, Wang Gang, said that one problem stems from that fact that other countries suspect that Chinese courts are guilty of human rights violations. Mr. Wang added that China is trying to set up a meeting with U.S. judicial authorities, including the Department of Homeland Security, in order to apprehend more of these fugitives. 

In China, these fleeing expats are called “Naked Officials,’’ a term used to describe government workers under investigation who have moved their families or their assets overseas.  Just recently, China announced a six-month campaign called “Fox Hunt 2014” to identify fugitives by getting local police and citizens to blow the whistle on suspected fugitives and to pursue more international cooperation.  

Besides the U.S., Asia and Africa are popular destination for economic fugitives. China has 37 extradition treaties, but not with the U.S., Canada and most European countries. 

For the fleeing Chinese, it gives the phrase – “We going to Disney World’’ – a whole new meaning. 

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To find out how China's elite use the offshore world to secretly stash their wealth away, see ICIJ's Secrecy for Sale project.

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