Bulgaria Extradites Graft Suspect to China in EU First

Business | December 1, 2018, Saturday // 16:56
Bulgaria: Bulgaria Extradites Graft Suspect to China in EU First pixabay.com

A former Chinese official accused of taking bribes has been extradited from Bulgaria to China in the first such move by an EU member state, Beijing's top graft buster said, reported AFP

Yao Jinqi, 62, was sent back to China after it was established he would not face the death penalty, according to Sofia authorities.

"The law enforcement agencies of China and Bulgaria worked closely together and Yao Jinqi, a suspect who fled to Bulgaria, was extradited," China's National Supervision Commission said in a statement.

"It is also the first time that we have successfully extradited a bureaucrat suspected of work-related crimes from an EU member state." 

The ruling of the Sofia City Court obtained by AFP confirmed that during a court hearing on Monday Yao, a former official in eastern China's Zhejiang province, had agreed to be extradited. 

"It is categorically stated that for the crimes listed in the extradition request, the death penalty is not applicable," it added, contradicting a claim from Yao's Bulgarian lawyer Yanko Alexiev that his client could face the death penalty.

"In line with the legislation in the People's Republic of China, for such a crime he can be sentenced to jail for a period of three to ten years, or fined, or his property may be confiscated, while the death penalty is not applicable," the court said.

There were also no grounds to consider that he might face "violence, torture, or cruel, inhumane, humiliating punishment", it added.

China's official Xinhua news agency said Yao had fled the country in 2005 when he was accused of graft, living in central and South America and the Philippines before settling in Bulgaria where he was last month arrested after being put on an Interpol Red Notice. 

"There is no true freedom fleeing overseas, finally I still needed to come back to explain myself and accept the consequences," he told Xinhua. 

As part of Chinese President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption drive, Beijing has sought the return of overseas fugitives accused of corruption or economic crimes. 

But it has seen limited success with many Western governments including the United States and Canada unwilling to cooperate, because of what they say a lack of transparency and due process in China's legal system. 

This is the first extradition since the NSC, a new super anti-graft agency, was set up in March. 

Those convicted of corruption have mostly been handed lengthy jail sentences though they could face capital punishment in serious cases.

In July, Zhang Zhongsheng, a former vice-mayor of Shanxi in north China was sentenced to death for accepting over $1 billion yuan ($160 million) in bribes.

Chinese courts have a near-perfect conviction rate of 99.92 percent.

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