x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 23 October 2017

China sentences most-wanted fugitive to eight years for graft

Former deputy mayor returned from the US last year after 13 years on the run

A portrait of President Xi Jinping is displayed at an exhibition showcasing China's progress in the past five years at the Beijing Exhibition Centre on October 10, 2017. The Chinese leader's crackdown on corruption has targeted high-ranking officials across the country. Wang Zhao / AFP
A portrait of President Xi Jinping is displayed at an exhibition showcasing China's progress in the past five years at the Beijing Exhibition Centre on October 10, 2017. The Chinese leader's crackdown on corruption has targeted high-ranking officials across the country. Wang Zhao / AFP

A Chinese court on Friday handed an eight-year sentence to a corrupt former city official who had been on the run for more than a decade.

Yang Xiuzhu, who served as deputy mayor of Wenzhou city in the booming eastern province of Zhejiang, gave herself up to Chinese authorities late last year, returning from the United States after spending 13 years in hiding.

China ranked Yang top in a 2015 list of its 100 most wanted graft suspects who were targeted with Interpol red notices. Many on the list had fled to the United States, Canada or Australia. Nearly 50 have since returned to China.

Yang's prison sentence and a fine of 800,000 yuan (Dh446,000) was announced by the People's Intermediate Court in Hangzhou, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The court gave Yang a reduced sentence as she had expressed regret, pleaded guilty and actively returned her illegal gains, as well returned to China, Xinhua reported.

In under three years in her position at the construction bureau, Yang had embezzled nearly 20 million yuan in public funds and had accepted over 7 million yuan in gifts. Just under 27 million yuan of this had been recovered, the court said.

It was not possible to reach Yang or a representative for comment.

President Xi Jinping's war on graft has spread beyond China's borders with overseas searches dubbed Operation Fox Hunt and Sky Net hunting down officials and business executives who fled with their assets.

Wary that suspects might not get a fair trial and that accusations may be politically motivated, some countries have been hesitant to comply with Beijing's requests to repatriate suspects.

Yang told Reuters in 2015 that she was innocent and called the most-wanted list a political document targeting enemies of the current regime rather than a roster of criminals.