China is ramping up its international manhunt of fugitive corrupt officials with a new multi-agency operation, codenamed Skynet, aimed at restricting their financial channels. Operation Skynet will go further than last year's international manhunt led by national police, Operation Foxhunt, by coordinating various government departments in a multi-pronged attack on both the fugitives and those who help them. Underground banks and offshore companies that enable money laundering as well as people who forge licences, passports and other documents are among the key targets. The operation's launch follows a recent meeting of the Fugitive Repatriation and Asset Recovery Office of the Communist Party's central anti-graft coordination group. Skynet will entail several projects and involve at least four ministries: the Central Organisation Department, the Supreme People's Procuratorate, the Ministry of Public Security, and the People's Bank of China, according to a statement on the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection's website. The Ministry of Public Security will continue to hunt officials and other key fugitives who have fled overseas, while the national police will work with the People's Bank of China to crack down on underground banks and offshore companies used for transferring illicit financial assets. Both departments will also target those who assist others in illegally transferring money abroad. Huang Shuxian, a deputy chief of the CCDI and the Minister of Supervision, said President Xi Jinping had ordered anti-graft officials to step up their overseas manhunt and to prevent fugitives from sheltering in "criminal havens". Anti-corruption expert Zhuang Deshui said Operation Skynet would cut off fugitives' financial channels. "Those underground banks and offshore companies are the accomplices of fugitive corrupt officials," said Zhuang. The ministry will also work with the party's Organisation Department, which manages the party's personnel affairs, to keep strict checks on cadres' private passports and other immigration documents. If fake papers, or any other transgressions, are discovered both the cadres and those who aided them will face punishment. "Like the Chinese idiom says, 'the sky may look thin and sparse, but it's vast and won't let you escape'," said Zhuang. Last year, China seized more than 500 fugitives and more than three billion yuan (HK$3.8 billion), according to the CCDI. Meanwhile, in Washington, the US State Department declined to comment on reports that Beijing had provided a "priority" list of Chinese officials suspected of fleeing to the US, Reuters reported. However, Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the department, said China had agreed to supply "more evidence regarding their priority fugitive cases, so that we can increase our focus on the location and prosecution or removal of these fugitives". "We continue to encourage China to provide strong evidence and intelligence to ensure that our law enforcement agencies can properly investigate and prosecute cases related to the alleged corruption," Psaki said.