Chinese officials fled overseas with $50 billion

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BEIJING (AP) — Thousands of Chinese officials have fled overseas with as much as $50 billion in their pockets in stolen government funds during the country’s economic boom over the past three decades, China’s top prosecutorial office said Monday.

Using the services of criminal gangs in other countries, former officials are often able to launder money, buy real estate and obtain fake IDs, according to an article posted on the Web site of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate.

The report from the top prosecutor’s office said developed nations, including the United States and Australia, have become “heaven for those in hiding.”

A joint multi-agency government task force has been set up to stem the flood of corrupt officials stealing and escaping the country.

“According to statistics, China now has 4,000 officials hiding overseas with $50 billion,” the report said. It was unclear how the numbers were calculated.

They include the Public Security, Justice and Foreign Affairs ministries joining together “to prevent the fleeing of those who violate disciplines or laws,” said a notice posted on the Ministry of Supervision’s Web site.

“All in all, efforts should continue to be made to catch and arrest the corrupt officials,” it said, while also making their lives on the run difficult.

It did not give details on how it would apprehend the officials or get them back to China to face the law.

The official Global Times newspaper reported Monday that the Ministry of Supervision monitored overseas trips made by government officials last year, with investigations conducted on 319 officials in 103 cases.

Overseas trips have been put under more scrutiny since Yang Xianghong, the party chief of a district in Whenzhou city in eastern Zhejiang province, went on a government junket to France in 2008 and refused to return home. His wife was arrested by police on suspicion of trying to launder 20 million yuan ($2.9 million).

Shao Daosheng, an analyst from China Academy of Social Sciences, told the newspaper there are several ways that officials typically flee: during overseas work trips, using fake identification and with the help of criminal gangs.