Lai Changxing, once considered China’s most-wanted fugitive, was sentenced to life in prison for smuggling and bribery in a corruption case that shocked the world and involved a decade-long extradition fight.
May 18, 2012, Xiamen - Ex-fugitive Lai Changxing was convicted and sentenced Friday morning by the Intermediate People’s Court in Xiamen, the port city where his smugling network was located . On top of the life sentence for smuggling and bribery, the court ordered all of Lai’s personal property seized, Xinhua News Agency said.
The sentencing marked an end for what a decade ago had been one of China’s biggest political scandals. From Xiamen and through his company the Xiamen Yuanhua Group, Lai ran an extensive smuggling network, using the amassed fortune to cultivate powerful political protectors. Tainted in the scandal were a deputy police minister, who was later given a suspended death sentence, and tens of local officials.
Lai’s network smuggled everything from cigarettes and cars to oil and textiles. The court’s verdict said the operation totaled 27.4 billion RMB or $4.35 billion, evaded 13.999 billion RMB or $2.22 billion in duties and other taxes and bribed 64 officials with up to 39.13 million RMB or $6.2 million between 1996 and 1999, Xinhua reported.
After a broad corruption and anti-smuggling investigation unmasked Lai’s operation, he managed to flee the country, tipped off by local officials, and eventually reached Canada in 1999. He then became the focus of a 12-year extradition battle. In 2001, Jiang Zemin, former Chinese president and communist party chief, sent a diplomatic note to then Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, assuring Canadian authorities Lai would not be executed if returned — a key Canadian demand.
Still, Lai fought extradition until July 2011 when a federal court in Vancouver ruled Lai should not be considered a refugee and upheld his deportation. On the afternoon of July 23, 2011 Lai Changxing escorted by Canadian officials arrived in Beijing. After exchanging some diplomatic procedures, Chinese police formally arrested Lai Changxing.