China and Canada agreed on Sept 12 to start discussions on a bilateral extradition treaty that would facilitate the return of corrupt fugitive Chinese officials who remain at large in Canada.
The agreement was reached at the China-Canada High-Level National Security and Rule of Law Dialogue in Beijing, where discussions were held on ways to improve cooperation on issues such as law enforcement, combating transnational organized crime, judicial cooperation and exchanges on the rule of law.
In depth talks of an extradition treaty and the signing of an agreement on sharing the recovered stolen assets will occur in the coming months, while negotiations are finalized on a yearlong memorandum of understanding on a pilot project in which Chinese experts will be invited to help identify Chinese immigrants who use fraudulent means to enter Canada.
“The start of such a discussion is a positive sign preparing the way for formal negotiations on the bilateral extradition treaty,” said Zhang Xiaoming, deputy director-general of the Judicial Assistance and Foreign Affairs Department at the Ministry of Justice.
Huang Feng, a law professor at Beijing Normal University said, “It marks great progress toward formally signing in the near future a bilateral extradition treaty between the two countries.”
“The two countries do not have major political or legal obstacles and have established good cooperative foundation, which will help them to communicate effectively and exchange views on signing an extradition treaty,” he said.
In recent years, the United States, Canada, Australia and Singapore have become popular destinations for corrupt fugitive Chinese officials. They lack bilateral extradition treaties and have legal differences with China, complicating their return, according to the Ministry of Public Security.
Many such fugitives have transferred billions of illegally acquired yuan to foreign accounts via money laundering and underground banks, the ministry said.
Since April, when Interpol issued alerts for the capture of 100 major fugitive Chinese officials and confiscate their illegal assets, seven corrupt officials have been returned from Canada for trial.
Huang said that Chinese judicial officials have found their best law enforcement cooperation with their counterparts in Canada. Among the fugitives Canada helped repatriate for trial was Gao Shan, former head of a sub-branch of Bank of China in Harbin, Heilongjiang province.
Gao was suspected of embezzling more than 800 million yuan ($129 million) in 2004 and pleaded guilty to judicial authorities in 2012, eight years after fleeing to Canada.
Zhang, of the Justice Ministry, said that although a good beginning has been made, many legal procedures need to be worked out for a bilateral extradition treaty.
Huang said, the practical challenge facing Chinese judicial authorities is that many fugitive Chinese suspects have obtained permanent residence in Canada, so the first step is “to improve judicial cooperation with Canada regarding the fugitive suspects and revoke their Canadian green cards, to be able to repatriate them for trial.”