$2.83tn is estimated to have left China illegally as a result of corruption between 2005 – 2011. This helps to explain the remarkable poster above, which shows China’s Interpol list of its 100 “most-wanted” corruption suspects. It has just been published by China’s state media, with the following explanation:
“The China National Central Bureau of the International Criminal Police Organization recently released a list of its 100 most-wanted worldwide, all of whom are suspected of economic crimes. The move is part of “Sky Net”, a campaign aimed at repatriating corrupt officials that fled overseas.
“The wanted list is issued by Interpol and its procedures are different from judicial coordination between states. With the release of the wanted list, the police in nations that have not signed repatriation treaties with Beijing can take actions against these Chinese fugitives via coordination with Interpol, thus further helping China. This has sounded an alarm to corrupt officials on the run overseas – even the safe havens will be dangerous for them.
“Browsing the official Interpol site, one finds that more than 400 Chinese are already on its wanted list, most of them for suspected corruption. Interestingly, some of them are not officials, but officials’ family members, such as wives or sons. That has much to do with the unique culture of corruption in China: many corrupt officials tend to seek illicit income by involving their family members in their crimes.”
Every day now seems to bring new arrests. Thus on Monday, the president and vice-chairman of Sinopec, China’s petrochemical giant, were arrested on suspicion of “serious violations of discipline and the law” – a phrase usually used to indicate allegations of corruption.
Last month also saw the trial begin of Jiang Jiemin, the former head of China National Petrochemical Corp (CNPC). Hundreds, probably thousands more, have been detained from lower ranks of CNPC and its subsidiary PetroChina. This follows the detention last year of Zhou Yongkang, the former Politburo member who build his career in PetroChina before becoming head of China’s security services.
As I noted last year, all financial bubbles lead to massive corruption. The major Western banks have been fined over $75bn since the financial crisis began, and new allegations emerge daily. However, nobody seems to go to jail, and shareholders are left to pick up the bill.
China is taking a a different approach, as the wave of arrests confirms. There is even a website that provides more details on day-to day developments. The importance of the campaign to President Xi was signalled as early as November 2012 by the appointment of Wang Qishan to lead the campaign. As I noted at the time:
“Corruption. Countries cannot progress if corruption dominates daily life. Thus it seems critically important that Wang Qishan has been given explicit responsibility for running the anti-graft agency. Equally important may be that previous head, Ma Wen, did not even make the new Politburo’s Standing Committee. Wang is the Party’s ‘Mr Fixit’ and was responsible for resolving the Sars bird flu crisis in 2003 and the success of the Beijing Olympics“.
Wang has a novel approach to gaining the information he needs. His teams settle in at government-owned hotels, and place adverts in the local papers to tell people they have arrived, as well as running online corruption hotlines.
With the launch of the Top 100 list, his anti-corruption probes are now clearly taking a new and even higher profile.