SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian police have agreed to assist China in the extradition and seizure of assets of corrupt Chinese officials who have fled with hundreds of millions of dollars in illicit funds, the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported.
The operation will make its first seizure of assets in Australia within weeks, the newspaper quoted Bruce Hill, manager of Australian Federal Police (AFP) operations in Asia, as saying in an interview.
China announced in July an operation called Fox Hunt to go after corrupt officials who have fled overseas with their ill-gotten gains. The campaign is part of President Xi Jinping’s broader crackdown on graft.
Getting cooperation from Australia would be a coup for Beijing, which has struggled to get its hands on suspects in Western countries, whose governments have been reluctant to hand over wanted Chinese over concerns whether they would get fair trials back home.
The United States, Canada and Australia are the three most popular destinations for suspected Chinese economic criminals, Chinese state media have said.
Australia and China have agreed on a priority list of alleged economic fugitives who have taken up residence in Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald said.
Among the suspects identified by the AFP were naturalised Australian citizens and permanent residents who had laundered money for years in the guise of genuine investment or funds of business migrants from China, it added.
The priority list agreed between China’s Ministry of Public Security and the AFP was culled from a broader list of “less than a hundred people”, Hill told the paper, adding that the assets China was pursuing in Australia were in the “many hundreds of millions of dollars”.
A spokeswoman for the Australian Federal Police told Reuters on Tuesday that Canberra had already successfully confiscated the proceeds of crime from Chinese economic fugitives and would continue to do so.