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China court indicts top fugitive on bribery charges

A local Chinese court in Xiamen on Monday indicted Lai Changxing [CNTV backgrounder] on charges of bribing Chinese government officials and running a Xiamen-based network that smuggled large quantities of goods during the 1990s. As chairman of the Yuanhua Group in Xiamen, Lai allegedly smuggled [Reuters report] billions of dollars worth of various goods including cigarettes and cars, as well as oil and other chemicals. In order to smuggle the goods through Chinese customs, Lai allegedly bribed government officials with significant amounts of money. More than 200 senior government officials have been implicated in the smuggling ring. The date of trial is still unknown, but if Lai is convicted the Chinese government has indicated that he will face life imprisonment rather than the death penalty. According to state-run media reports, Lai has confessed to all charges [Xinhua report] against him.

Lai fled to Canada with his ex-wife and three children in 1999, when the charges were first brought against him. He was able to obtain refugee protection from the Chinese judiciary system, which allowed the death penalty for his alleged crimes. In 2006, Canada stayed Lai's deportation [JURIST report] based on claims that he would face torture and execution if compelled to return to China. Canada's law prohibits deportations of refugees to countries that use torture as common practice. In July 2011, the Canadian government allowed the deportation of Lai [BBC report] based on assurances from the Chinese government that he would not face capital punishment for his crimes.

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