Fugitive Lai Changxing back and under arrest

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 July, 2011, 12:00am


China's most-wanted fugitive was arrested yesterday after being returned to China from Canada, where he lived for 12 years.

Lai Changxing, the chief suspect in a smuggling operation in Xiamen, Fujian province, involving an estimated 50 billion yuan (HK$60.5 billion), was escorted by two Chinese police officers as he left an Air Canada plane that arrived in Beijing at 4.32pm.

CCTV footage showed a balding, pudgy Lai being escorted to an old building where, after being transferred by Canadian officers, he was formally arrested.

Lai, wearing a grey shirt, looked quiet but was responsive and alert when the police officer read him his rights. 'You have the right to hire lawyers for legal assistance ... and details will be explained to you when you are under investigation,' the officer said.

'What are you explaining to me?' Lai asked. He replied 'Yes' and nodded his head after the officer repeated the remark.

Lai signed his name and put his fingerprint on the arrest order and was then escorted to a police vehicle.

Authorities have not announced the charges against Lai, but the customs administration said it was conducting further investigations into Lai's case.

Lai fled to Canada via Hong Kong in August 1999 and tried to obtain refugee status there. He attempted to avoid deportation by claiming he could face the death penalty or be tortured if he was sent back. But a Canadian court ruled Lai would not be at risk if he was returned to China.

Gan Yisheng, deputy secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, said in 2007 Lai would not be sentenced to death.

Figures from the customs administration revealed 31 criminal suspects believed to be connected with Lai's case had been sent back to China from other countries since April 2001, Xinhua reported.

'Lai's repatriation once again shows that no matter where a criminal suspect flees, he or she cannot evade legal sanctions in the end,' the Ministry of Public Security said.