May 28, 2015 / 3:04 PM / 2 years ago

Fugitive ex-Chinese official, investigated for graft, detained in U.S.

Yang Xiuzhu reads a newspaper during a meeting in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, December 29, 2001. REUTERS/Stringer

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A former senior Chinese official, who went into hiding after being sought by anti-corruption investigators in China, has been detained in the United States, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said on Thursday.

Yang Xiuzhu, a senior official who oversaw construction projects in the booming eastern province of Zhejiang, is in U.S. custody pending her removal to China, Luis Martinez, a spokesman for the U.S. immigration agency, said in a statement.

“As a foreign law enforcement fugitive, Yang is an ICE enforcement priority,” Martinez said.

Chinese authorities could not be immediately reached for comment.

The detention comes as China pushes for talks with the United States on an extradition treaty, which would be a big boost for Beijing’s anti-corruption campaign.

According to the immigration agency’s database, a Chinese national by the name of Yang Xiuzhu is being held at a detention facility in Hudson County, New Jersey.

Yang, whose detention was first reported by Bloomberg News earlier on Thursday, is one of a number of Chinese nationals suspected of corruption who have fled overseas.

She first fled to Singapore in 2003 before changing her name and flying to New York.

She was eventually detained in Amsterdam in 2005, where China wasn’t able to gain custody of her, despite protracted negotiations with the Netherlands. In addition to the United States, China lacks an extradition treaty with the Netherlands.

It was not immediately clear how Yang ended up in the United States or how U.S. authorities managed to detain her.

Martinez said Yang had violated the terms of the U.S. visa-waiver program, which allows some citizens from certain countries to stay in the United States for three months or less.

The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Yang’s case.

China, which has said there are more than 150 economic fugitives hiding in the United States, had filed an arrest warrant for her through Interpol.

Reporting by Susan Heavey and David Brunnstrom in Washington and Sui-Lee Wee in Beijing; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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