Author: CHUNG Yoon Ngan
Date: 05-19-12 21:41
Life for Lai
By Xu Wei, Zhang Yan
May 19, 2012 - 8:04am http://www.chinadailyapac.com
Conviction shows Beijing determined to fight corruption, expert says
Lai Changxing, once China's most wanted fugitive who spent 12 years on the run in Canada, was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of smuggling and offering bribes.
The verdict, by the intermediate court of Xiamen, Fujian province, on Friday, also ruled that Lai will forfeit all his personal income and be deprived of his political rights for life.
It is unknown whether Lai has appealed, but experts said the case demonstrates China's will to fight graft and sets an example for deportation of Chinese fugitives.
Lai, born in 1958, was the head of a smuggling ring that dates back to the 1990s in Xiamen. He fled to Canada with his family in 1999 after authorities cracked down on the ring.
Lai was repatriated to China on July 23 and prosecuted for smuggling and bribery in Xiamen in February.
Li Guifang, deputy director of the criminal investigation department under the All China Lawyers' Association, said the ruling is fair given the large amount of money involved in the case, one of the largest in China.
According to the court, the value of smuggled goods reached 27.39 billion yuan ($4.33 billion) and Lai's company evaded nearly 14 million yuan in taxes.
Lai launched companies in Hong Kong and Xiamen in 1991 and recruited accomplices.
The group smuggled cigarettes, cars, petroleum, cooking oil, chemicals, equipment and other goods past Xiamen Customs between December 1995 and May 1999.
Lai bribed 64 government officials between 1991 and 1999 with cash, assets and cars worth more than 29 million yuan.
The conviction of Lai shows China's determination to combat corruption, said Hong Daode, law professor from China University of Political Science and Law.
The investigation and trial lasted from August 1999 to April 2001, during which more than 300 people were indicted, including 14 death sentences.
Hong also urged the authorities to prevent suspects from fleeing the country and step up cooperation with foreign countries to deport fugitives.
Thirty-one criminal suspects connected with Lai's smuggling operation have been sent back to China from overseas since April 2001.
However, Lai's case is one of the country's longest extradition cases and was an irritant in Sino-Canadian relations.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Friday that the case shows that it is important for China and Canada to cooperate in law enforcement.
"China is keen to deepen practical cooperation with Canada in various fields, including law enforcement ... to jointly promote the development of bilateral ties," Hong Lei said.
Lai arrived in Canada, which doesn't have the death penalty, in 1999 on a tourist visa and had been seeking refuge status.
The Chinese government asked Canada to deport Lai.
Gan Yisheng, secretary-general of the Communist Party of China's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, said in a news conference in 2007 that the Chinese government would keep its promise not to execute Lai and denied that he would be tortured.
The promise helped facilitate the extradition of Lai, as the Supreme Court of Canada has in the past ruled against the extradition of suspects facing the death penalty in their home countries.
On July 21 a federal court in Ottawa upheld Lai's deportation order and he was sent back to China two days later.
The proceedings of Lai's case were held between April 6 and 22, with the presence of local residents, officials and lawmakers, as well as some of Lai's family and friends.
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Zhang Yunbi and Xinhua contributed to this story.