A former Bank of China manager who fled to the U.S. two decades ago where he was convicted in a $485 million fraud case has been returned to China, marking a victory in Xi Jinping’s efforts to have corrupt officials brought to justice back home.
The “forced repatriation” of Xu Guojun “marks significant progress in the handling of the 20-year-old case,” the ruling Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said in a statement Sunday. It didn’t say whether Xu acted on his own accord.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian confirmed at a regular press briefing Monday in Beijing that Xu was repatriated from the U.S.
Xi has made rooting out corruption a pillar of governance since taking power nearly a decade ago, a strategy that’s helped win him public support. It has also left the nation’s law enforcers with the task of hunting down corrupt officials around the world, many of them in the U.S., which doesn’t have an extradition treaty with China.
The lack of a written agreement on returning fugitives means officials from the two nations must negotiate fugitive handovers on a case-by-case basis. That process slowed during the Trump administration, when a trade war sent ties spiraling and a range of other disputes broke out over issues from Taiwan and Hong Kong to visas for students and journalists.
The Bank of China case caused a stir two decades ago due to the large amount of money involved, and was widely seen in the Asian nation as a textbook example of corruption in the state banking system.
In 2008, a grand jury in the U.S. state of Nevada convicted Xu, another manager and their wives of defrauding the Bank of China, racketeering, money laundering, transporting stolen property, and passport and visa fraud. Xu was later handed a 22-year prison sentence.
U.S. prosecutors said the couples emigrated to the U.S. using false identities, and presented evidence of their transactions at Las Vegas casinos, including bets of as much as $80,000.
The two managers and a colleague, all former employees of Bank of China at its sub-branch in Kaiping county in the southern province of Guangdong, laundered funds through Las Vegas and Macau, and then used fake passports to flee to Canada in October 2001, the Chinese bank said in 2002.
The CCDI statement said more than $313 million (2 billion yuan) of stolen money has been recovered and the other Bank of China managers involved in the case, Yu Zhendong and Xu Chaofan, have already been repatriated.