PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 January, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 January, 2000, 12:00am

A formal agreement for the transfer of fugitives between the mainland and Hong Kong is desirable and can be achieved, the Director of Public Prosecutions said yesterday.

Grenville Cross SC said last year's controversial cases of 'Big Spender' Cheung Tze-keung and fung shui killer Li Yuhui had highlighted the need for such arrangements.

Both men were tried and executed on the mainland for offences which had, at least partly, been committed in Hong Kong.

'It is undoubtedly desirable that there be in place formal rendition arrangements between the mainland and the SAR and discussions between the two jurisdictions are in progress,' Mr Cross said.

'However, although sensitive and complicated issues are involved in arriving at the most suitable arrangement, I believe that in due course such an arrangement can be achieved based on mutual respect and understanding.' Mr Cross made his comments in a speech to the pro-Beijing New Territories Association of Societies at a seminar in Causeway Bay on cross-border crime and the transfer of fugitives.

He said any arrangement would need a legislative foundation and must be acceptable to both sides while safeguarding the rights of the individual.

Mr Cross said the number of illegal immigrants arrested for violent crimes committed in Hong Kong dropped to 229 last year, from 292 in 1998. The figure for non-violent crimes also dropped, from 900 to 775. There were 73 reports of cross-border corruption last year, down from 89 in 1998.

The most prevalent financial crime in recent years is where a company obtains a letter of credit from a bank and then uses false documents to obtain the cash before fleeing, he said.

There were 23 such cases reported to the police last year involving losses of $915.4 million.