“Operation Fox Hunt,” as Beijing dubbed its push to find corrupt officials and citizens who have fled overseas and seize their foreign real estate and other assets, has had its first big success in Europe.
Police in Bologna, Italy agreed to hand over a Chinese woman living in Bologna, identified only by the surname Zhang, who was ”one of China’s most-wanted economic fugitives” according to state news reports. She is accused of embezzling more than 1.4 million yuan ($223,700) from clients at a security firm.
It’s the first time that a European country has extradited a Chinese citizen accused of a financial crime, an official from the Ministry of Public Security told reporters. And it won’t be the last, Chinese officials promised. “The meaning of this extradition surpasses the case itself,” Wang Gang, the ministry official charged with EU cooperation, told Caixin (link in Chinese). “This extradition case will serve as a demonstration for other western countries,” he added.
China now has extradition treaties with 29 countries, including France, Spain, Portugal and Australia, Caixin reports (link in Chinese), and another 10 pending ratification, ministry officials said. By November of last year, China had nabbed nearly 300 fugitive suspects in 56 countries suspected of economic crimes.
“Operation Fox Hunt,” has been stymied in part by a lack of foreign government cooperation, Chinese officials say. The US and Canada are among the countries that have not signed extradition treaties with China, in part because penalties for financial fraud are so stiff.
Hebei, where Zhang committed the crime and is likely to be tried, for example, has a history of handing out long sentences, and even the death penalty, for financial fraud, although such cases usually involve much larger amounts.