- Associated Press - Thursday, September 24, 2015

BEIJING (AP) - A Chinese woman who served a U.S. prison term for money laundering was returned to China on Thursday, authorities said, just ahead of a meeting between President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Kuang Wanfang, who is wanted in a bribery investigation and is the wife of a former official of the state-owned Bank of China, was repatriated following cooperation with U.S. law enforcement officials, China’s Supervision Ministry said.

She is the second person to be sent back to China from the United States since Beijing launched a “Sky Net” campaign in April to bring back people who are accused of economic crimes and have fled overseas.

The United States lacks an extradition treaty with China and is wary that the country’s opaque court system may be unfair to defendants, so it has typically been cautious in turning Chinese nationals over to Beijing, making the U.S. a top destination for corrupt Chinese officials.

Beijing seeks to change that, and Washington has agreed to cooperate but also demands solid evidence against the accused.

“China will step up joint efforts with the international community to crack down on cross-border corruption and seize ill-gotten gains,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Thursday. “We also hope to have further support and collaboration from the United States to make it impossible for fugitives to seek shelters abroad.”

Kuang is married to Xu Chaofan, who was involved in a $485 million fraud case in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong. She and another banker’s wife were convicted in 2009 by a federal jury in Las Vegas of helping launder the proceeds and violating immigration laws, including entering the country illegally and gaining U.S. citizenship through fraud. The women each were sentenced to eight years in prison.

Their husbands also were convicted in the United States on charges of racketeering, money laundering and international transportation of stolen property and fraud. The men were jailed for 25 years and 22 years respectively. The four lost their appeals in 2013.

Kuang was released early. It’s unclear whether the other three people will be repatriated to China.

Another defendant, Yu Zhendong, was sent back to China in 2004 on the condition that he would not be tortured or given the death penalty, which can be applied in China even for non-violent white-collar crimes. Yu eventually got 12 years in prison.

The ministry said Kuang had been a fugitive from Chinese justice for 14 years and, upon her return, would face an investigation by Guangdong police on graft and bribery charges.

Last week, the United States sent back Chinese businessman Yang Jinjun, who is suspected of graft and bribery. His sister, Yang Xiuzhu, has been detained in the United States but is seeking political asylum. The woman, formerly a deputy mayor in the eastern city of Wenzhou, is wanted in China for allegedly embezzling more than $40 million.

Hong, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, described the return of both Yang Jinjun and Kuang as progress in law enforcement cooperation with the United States.


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