After 13 years on the run, China’s most-wanted fugitive jailed for graft
Yang Xiuzhu, 71, embezzled some US$3 million of public funds and accepted US$1.1 million in gifts while she was deputy mayor of Wenzhou, court finds
China’s most-wanted fugitive has been sentenced to eight years in prison for corruption and taking bribes by a court in Zhejiang province, according to state media.
Yang Xiuzhu, 71, was also fined 800,000 yuan (US$121,000) by the Hangzhou Intermediate People’s Court, state mouthpiece People’s Daily reported on Thursday.
The sentence comes amid a wave of high-profile trials involving corrupt officials repatriated from overseas through a major campaign dubbed Operation Fox Hunt, and another known as Sky Net, launched in 2014 as part of President Xi Jinping’s sweeping crackdown on graft.
The drive has been spearheaded by anti-graft watchdog the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, led by Xi ally Wang Qishan.
Yang’s case has attracted particular attention because she is one of very few women cadres to be publicly tried for corruption.
She was top of a list of former officials wanted by Beijing for corruption – and subject to an Interpol arrest warrant – after she fled the country in 2003.She sought refuge in Hong Kong, Singapore, France, the Netherlands and Italy before she went to the United States in 2014.
But the US rejected her asylum application and she returned to China in November, surrendering to the authorities after 13 years on the run.
She was convicted of embezzling nearly 20 million yuan of public funds and receiving 7.3 million yuan in gifts while she was deputy mayor of Wenzhou – a city in the eastern coastal province – from 1996 to 1999, the court said. The authorities seized nearly 26.4 million yuan of her illegal gains.
Yang also held senior management roles in state-owned firms during that period – she was chair of a Wenzhou railway developer and deputy director of the Zhejiang Province Construction Bureau.
Her sentence was reduced because she pleaded guilty and showed remorse during the trial, which began in late July, the report said.
Since the campaign to pursue corrupt officials and economic criminals hiding overseas began, 48 of China’s 100 most-wanted fugitives have returned to the country, according to state media. The Communist Party is eager to show those cadres who continue to flee China each year that going overseas is no guarantee they will be able to escape punishment.
Other fugitives on the most-wanted list who were returned to China recently include Kong Guangsheng, a former state petrol company manager who fled to Hong Kong in 2012, and Guo Xin, who was a history professor at Yunnan University and is suspected of taking bribes, according to the anti-graft watchdog.