China pressures family of Australian-based corruption suspect to ensure his return
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China pressures family of Australian-based corruption suspect to ensure his return

Beijing: China's corruption watchdog has admitted to placing pressure on the family of a suspect living in Australia to get him to return to China.

Former bank official Lai Mingmin, 67, migrated to Sydney where he had been living for 17 years, but returned to China to face corruption investigators in June. At the time, state media reported his return to China, and his refund of the bribe he had taken, was voluntary.

The long reach of Operation Fox Hunt: six accused fugitives are taken back to China under escort from Indonesia in June 2015.

The long reach of Operation Fox Hunt: six accused fugitives are taken back to China under escort from Indonesia in June 2015.

Photo: AP

But the Guangdong office of China's feared Central Commission of Discipline Inspection (CCDI) on Wednesday revealed Lai was among several suspects caught after investigators placed pressure on the overseas Chinese community.

Inspectors from the city of Jiangmen, where Lai was once the president of the local Bank of China, targeted Lai's wife for "ideological work" or persuasion, the commission stated.

When Lai's wife and daughter travelled to Jiangmen from Sydney in April for a visit, "the main leaders of the city's CCDI personally met with Lai Mingmin's wife, persuaded her sentimentally and rationally, explained and publicised national laws and policies".

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Sydney resident Lai Mingmin, who was on China’s most wanted list of economic fugitives.

Sydney resident Lai Mingmin, who was on China’s most wanted list of economic fugitives.

Photo: Supplied

At the meeting, inspectors "confirmed her determination to support and cooperate with Lai Mingmin's return to China".

"Under legal intimidation and government policy influence,” Lai had become aware of his mistakes and returned to Jiangmen, the statement said.

In the same statement, the CCDI detailed how Chinese people originally from Jiangmen, but now living overseas, were targeted to "confirm relevant clues" about another embezzlement suspect living in Honduras, Deng Wancan, 74.

Jiangmen, in southern China, is the "home town" of over 3.6 million overseas Chinese. According to the CCDI, this meant it carried a heavy burden in the repetriation of international fugitives.

A policy called "Channelling through overseas Chinese" has been adopted by Jiangmen's inspectors which saw them "leveraging overseas Chinese" to broaden communication channels with fugitives.

China's Operation Fox Hunt has sought to pursue corrupt officials who moved overseas. However, progress has slowed, with fewer than half of the "100 most wanted" suspects returning, partly because countries such as the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia do not have extradition treaties with China because of human rights concerns.

Under the deterrence of law shock Lai became aware of his mistake.

Central Commission of Discipline Inspection statement

On Thursday, China's top court, police department, foreign ministry and the corruption watchdog issued a joint statement announcing that overseas corruption fugitives who surrendered by December 31 or confessed to Chinese embassies abroad would receive lighter punishments.

Fugitives accused of economic crimes who returned stolen money to victims may even avoid punishment if the "crime is light", the statement said.

If relatives or friends of the suspect reported them to authorities, it would also be "deemed voluntary surrender".

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Lai was placed on an Interpol list in 2005 after leaving China in 2001. His name, photograph and possible whereabouts was released publicly by the Chinese corruption watchdog on June 6.

Under rules agreed by the Australian Federal Police and China's Public Security Bureau in 2017, any Australian suspects must return to China voluntarily.

Under the deal, Chinese investigators are not allowed to interview suspects living in Australia unless an AFP officer is present.