China says its police brought graft suspect back from France

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police pursued a fugitive to France for the first time, persuading them to surrender and return home last month to face charges for serious economic crimes, the ruling Communist Party’s anti-corruption watchdog said on Monday.

As part of President Xi Jinping’s war on deep-seated corruption, police launched “Operation Fox Hunt” to bring back corrupt officials and business executives who have fled abroad with their assets.

In a brief statement, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said Zheng Ning, a former executive at a cashmere firm in the northwestern Chinese region of Ningxia, had been bought back to China on Feb. 24 from France.

Zheng had fled to France in April 2014 and had been issued with an Interpol red notice for his capture for “suspected massive economic crimes”, the commission said.

“This was a successful attempt at smoothly escorting back a fugitive overseas and the first time our police had been to France, successfully persuading someone to surrender from Europe,” it added.

The brief statement gave no other details and it is not clear why the government waited until some three weeks after Zheng’s repatriation to issue a statement.

It was not possible to locate a legal or family representative of Zheng’s for comment.

China has been pushing for extradition treaties but many Western countries have been reluctant to help, not wanting to send people back to a country where rights groups say mistreatment of suspects is a concern.

China has upset Western countries by sending undercover agents to try to get suspects back, though it says it changed tactics after complaints.

The United States would not tolerate any pressure from the Chinese government on family members of fugitives to get them to return from America, but could not guarantee it had not happened, a U.S. official said in Beijing in November.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore