The U.S. is considering deporting one of China’s most wanted economic fugitives, who is in custody and charged with violating visa rules.
China wants the accused, Yang Xiuzhu, to be deported to face trial in local courts for stealing over $40 million.
The Wall Street Journal quoted Luis M. Martinez, spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a Homeland Security agency, saying that Yang is in “custody pending removal to China, for violating the terms of the Visa Waiver Program.”
Yang is a former deputy mayor of Wenzhou and reportedly traveled to the United States in 2003. She is among thousands of former officials accused by China of stealing over $48 billion before escaping to foreign countries in the past three decades.
If the United States deports her, it would be a validation of Chinese efforts to promote more cooperation between the countries in tracking down economic fugitives.
News of the case comes within weeks of an agreement between U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and China’s State Councilor and Minister of Public Security Guo Shengkun on the issue of extradition.
“The two participants further acknowledged that neither country should serve as a safe haven for fugitives, and that each intends to endeavor to effectuate removals of such individuals within the bounds of their respective laws,” the U.S. Embassy in Beijing said in a statement after the April 9 meeting.
Western governments have been reluctant to sign extradition treaties with China because of concerns over transparency and due process in China’s judicial system as well as its treatment of prisoners. But that has meant that corrupt officials who embezzle money have, in some cases, fled to those countries, trying to avoid extradition.
Beijing authorities have had limited success in persuading countries like the U.S., Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom to forcibly repatriate officials who face legal prosecution in China. China’s official media has said that out of some 4,000 who have disappeared over the past three decades, 155 former officials have been returned.
The legal case against Yang in the United State is, so far, limited to alleged violations of the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, which allows citizens from some countries to gain entry to the United States if they meet certain conditions.
China’s government said Yang was detained in the United States last year when she reportedly used a fake Dutch passport to enter the country. U.S. authorities have not commented on the exact circumstances of her detention.