WELLINGTON (Reuters) - A Chinese-born New Zealand citizen on China’s most-wanted list was sentenced to five months home detention for money laundering on Wednesday after years of investigation by police from both countries.
The cooperation between the two countries comes as China seeks to drum up Western help in a campaign dubbed “Operation Fox Hunt” to track down corruption suspects who have fled overseas.
Businessman William Yan last year struck a deal with police to forfeit a record NZ$42 million ($29 million) in assets allegedly obtained through fraud in China, but did not admit guilt at the time. He pleaded guilty on Wednesday in Auckland District Court.
Home detention is the New Zealand equivalent of house arrest. China has been pushing for extradition treaties with various countries but many Western nations have been reluctant to help, not wanting to send people to a country where rights groups say mistreatment of suspects is a concern.
Yan is on China’s list of top 100 most-wanted international fugitives and New Zealand Detective Senior Sergeant Craig Hamilton said in a statement that the case showed the effectiveness of New Zealand’s relationship with Chinese law enforcement agencies.
“It demonstrates we have the legislation and investigative capability to hold those to account who profit from offending overseas, even when they are living in New Zealand,” Hamilton said.
Yan, through his lawyer, declined to comment. His lawyer, Paul Wicks, said in an email there were “issues that are to be taken up by Mr Yan with police regarding the contents of their press release”. He did not elaborate.
Police said that almost NZ$28 million of the seized assets would go to China and New Zealand would keep the rest.
Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Nick Macfie