An Australian court's jailing of a fugitive mainland official for 14 years for money laundering has been hailed as a breakthrough in international co-operation in fighting crime and a deterrent to corrupt officials seeking safe haven overseas. Li Jixiang, or Li Kai Cheung as he is known in Australia, was convicted on seven counts of money laundering and two counts of dealing in the proceeds of crime between December 1999 and August 2000 in the Supreme Court of Queensland on September 13, the Brisbane-based Courier-Mail newspaper reported. Justice Martin Daubney said Li showed little remorse over defrauding a public utility in China, but was sentenced for money laundering in Australia and not his activities in China. However, the conviction capped an eight-year effort by mainland authorities to bring Li to justice. He took 581 million yuan (HK$703 million) from the mainland in collusion with another official and channeled 40 million yuan to Australia via underground moneylenders. Li, now a permanent resident in Australia, was the manager of Nanhai Housing Company in Foshan , Guangdong, between 1984 and 2003. The state-owned firm managed government funds earmarked for public housing projects. Li's embezzlement came to light in September 2003 when Nanhai district prosecutors tracked him down to a company he and a district housing fund administration official set up in Hong Kong. Sponsored by his now ex-wife, he fled China and joined his family in Australia that month. He bought a house in southern Brisbane and put A$100,000 into a term deposit. Li was a typical 'naked' official, with the rest of his family having migrated to Australia as early as 1999. China did not sign an extradition treaty with Australia until April 2008 and instead went to the Australian Federal Police for help in bringing Li to justice. Guangdong prosecutors contacted the Australian police in October 2005, leading to the freezing of about A$6.3 million (HK$48 million) in March 2007, the People's Daily reported yesterday. With their help, Guangdong prosecutors retrieved US$3.82 million via civil proceedings in Australia in July 2007. Huang Feng, a Beijing Normal University professor specialising in international criminal law, said the pursuit of an international fugitive through the courts in the country where they lived provided a new deterrent against official corruption. Huang said law enforcement authorities were unlikely to seek extradition of a fugitive from another country when judicial proceedings were already under way. 'Once they choose a judicial ruling, the fugitive can no longer be dealt with within the legal framework of his or her home country,' Huang said. 'Due respect must be fully accorded to the judicial system of another country.'