Chinese officials have handed the United States a list of over 100 alleged fugitives wanted in corruption cases back home, The Associated Press (AP) reported citing an anonymous U.S. official. China wants help from the U.S. in tracking down the people on the list, many of whom fled the mainland in the 1990s.
The move comes amid President Xi Jinping's crackdown on corruption and Beijing's efforts to nab thousands of corrupt officials who have fled the country over the years. Although the American official confirmed the list, he did not disclose specifics of the alleged offenses or if the accused were in the U.S. or elsewhere. China and the U.S. currently do not have an extradition treaty to handle such fugitives but they can be prosecuted in the country to which they escaped, or they can be expelled on immigration violation charges.
“So at the end of the day, at least at this moment, an extradition treaty does not seem to be in the cards, but there are other ways to accomplish the desired objective of denying safe haven to criminals and we are quite willing to work with the government of China on those alternative ways," the American official said, according to AP.
The host country can also seize illegally acquired assets, forcing them to return back home. William Brownfield, the assistant secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, said, according to AP, that both countries had identified a "finite number of individuals and agreed to develop a strategy to address each of those."
According to China’s estimates, since the mid 1990s, up to 18,000 employees of state-owned enterprises have fled the country or have gone into hiding with pilfered assets worth over 800 billion yuan ($135 billion), AP reported. In August, China had also said that more than 150 people wanted for corruption cases in the country, are living in the U.S. According to Brownfield, Washington is already handling the deportation of over 39,000 Chinese citizens on other charges.
China's request comes at a time when the relationship between the two countries have suffered over allegations and counter-allegations of cyberattacks.