MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia has returned around A$215,000 ($170,000) to China in funds it has seized from money laundering cases as the two countries agreed on Tuesday to beef up efforts to crack down on financial crime.
Australia has been working with China’s “Operation Fox Hunt” to snare suspected corrupt officials who have fled overseas or hidden assets offshore. A handful of the 100 top suspects wanted by Beijing are living in Australia.
Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin said the payment demonstrated that Australia was a “hostile environment for criminals seeking to hide their illegally-obtained assets.”
However, the returned money is tiny compared to the A$4.8 billion in Chinese direct investment into Australia in 2016.
Colvin was in Beijing for talks with the Ministry of Public Security.
The two countries have set up a joint working group to combat financial crime and money-laundering and track down assets linked to the proceeds of crime in both countries. Australian police said the group was the first of its kind with China and would extend the reach of Fox Hunt.
They also plan to formalize future cooperation on a range of crime types, including terrorism, that could impact security in both countries.
China outbound investment has dropped this year as Beijing has clamped down on capital outflows, looking to curb “irrational” investment in property and other sectors. Australia is among the favored destinations for Chinese buying housing and commercial property offshore.
Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Jane Wardell and Michael Perry