Nearly 6,000 fugitives accused of economic crimes have been returned to China to stand trial from more than 120 countries and regions since 2014, the leading anti-corruption watchdog said.
The announcement came just before the fifth anniversary on Thursday of the founding of the office created to coordinate anti-corruption efforts as a means to help bolster the hunt for fugitives.
That office was established on June 27, 2014, to strengthen the work undertaken by the International Cooperation Bureau of the Communist Party of China's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. It was set up to better coordinate the efforts of such entities as the CCDI, the Supreme People's Court, the Foreign Ministry and the Public Security Ministry in pursuing fugitives who escaped overseas.
Between January 2014 and May of this year, 5,974 fugitives suspected of economic crimes, including 1,425 government officials, were brought back, and 14.248 billion yuan ($2.07 billion) of illegal assets were recovered from abroad, bureau officials said.
"Under the leadership of the CPC Central Committee, we have had significant achievements in nabbing the fugitives and returning their ill-gotten assets in the past five years," said Cai Wei, deputy director of the International Cooperation Bureau.
"We have cut off the suspects' escape routes and effectively changed their minds about fleeing overseas, which has laid a solid foundation for achieving an overwhelming victory in the fight against corruption," he said.
Since late 2012, China has conducted a massive campaign to fight corruption.
"Wherever offenders may flee, they will be brought back and brought to justice," President Xi Jinping said in October 2017 during the 19th CPC National Congress.
Xi also has repeatedly stated that China will enhance judicial cooperation with other countries to combat cross-border corruption and work to make sure other nations are not "safe havens" for fugitives.
In April 2015, the office issued red notices－international arrest warrants－for 100 of China's most-wanted fugitives facing corruption charges, as part of China's Operation Skynet targeting such fugitives. By the end of this May, 58 of the 100 had been returned from more than 16 countries and regions, including Yang Xiuzhu, former vice-mayor of Wenzhou, Zhejiang province.
Yang, 72, returned in November 2016 after spending 13 years on the run in six countries, including the Netherlands and the United States.
In October 2017, she was convicted of corruption and bribery and sentenced to eight years in prison by Hangzhou Intermediate People's Court in Zhejiang province.
That left 42 fugitives still at large in Western countries. Anti-graft officers are facing challenges in repatriating or extraditing them because of differences in laws and a lack of bilateral extradition treaties.
Cai said Operation Skynet will continue working to beef up judicial cooperation with foreign counterparts on important cases. The emphasis is on working together to arrest the fugitives and return them to China to face charges.
He said they will work closely with the People's Bank of China, the central bank, to enhance investigations of money laundering and crack down on underground banks. They will also enhance intelligence sharing with other countries and ask them to assist in freezing and confiscating illicit assets that the fugitives have sent abroad.
Anti-graft officials also will increase oversight of government officials and those in leading positions of State-owned companies and financial institutions to prevent them fleeing overseas should they be involved in wrongdoing.
"If fugitives voluntarily return to plead guilty, we will give them lenient punishment," he said. "If they refuse, we have the means to capture them and bring them back to justice."