China's most wanted fugitive in Beijing after extradition

Sat Jul 23, 2011 6:24am EDT
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By Sui-Lee Wee

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's most wanted fugitive was arrested in the capital Beijing Saturday after being deported from Canada where he lived in exile for 12 years.

Lai Changxing, 53, arrived at Beijing's international airport Saturday afternoon, where Chinese police "announced his arrest and read him his rights, including hiring lawyers to defend himself, after he was transferred by the Canadian side," state news agency Xinhua reported, citing the ministry of public security.

The extradition ended a decades-long saga that had plagued Sino-Canadian relations.

Beijing has sought the deportation of Lai, accusing him of running a multibillion-dollar smuggling operation in the southeastern city of Xiamen in the 1990s in one of China's biggest political scandals in decades.

A Canadian lawyer for Lai said he had been put on a plane from Canada Friday, after a court cleared the way on Thursday for Lai's extradition, dismissing concerns that he could be tortured or executed back home.

"Lai's repatriation once again shows that no matter where a criminal suspect flees, he or she cannot evade legal sanctions in the end," Xinhua quoted the ministry of public security as saying.

Lai fled to Canada with his family in 1999 and claimed refugee status, saying the allegations against him were politically motivated.

China had promised Canada in a diplomatic note that Lai would not be tortured or executed and that Canadian officials would have access to him. But many legal experts and human rights activists said it was unlikely Lai could receive a fair trial in China.   Continued...

<p>Lai Changxing, who has been called China's most wanted fugitive, listens to a translator during a news conference in Vancouver, British Columbia September 18, 2007. REUTERS/Andy Clark</p>