One of China's most wanted in NZ
CHINA has revealed that New Zealand citizen Bill Liu is ranked number five on its Top 100 extradition list.
Prime Minister John Key said that the extradition list - which has been held under wraps - came up in his talks with President Xi Jinping at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse.
Key confirmed to the Herald that China has a list of nationals in New Zealand that it wants to extradite.
"I haven't seen the list, but there is a list," Key said.
"They've also put out a list worldwide of the Top 100," he said. "Bill Liu is number five on it."
New Zealand Police, as part of a money-laundering inquiry, have seized millions of dollars of assets they believe belong to Liu.
No criminal charges have been laid against Liu and he strongly denies any wrongdoing.
Senior detectives are working closely with Chinese authorities who claim Liu stole $129 million when he was the chairman of a pharmaceutical company in 2000.
The following year, Liu - also known as William Yan, Yang Liu and Yong Ming Yan - moved to New Zealand and was later controversially granted citizenship, despite having multiple identities and an Interpol alert against his name.
In August 2014, the NZ police raided his $2.5 million penthouse Metropolis apartment and seized an estimated $40 million of assets.
The Prime Minister yesterday said China's leadership wanted to "publicly demonstrate to people that you can't get away with ill-gotten gains".
"He was quite clear about it," Key added.
The NZ Government has been clear in its discussions with China that its retention of the death penalty is an issue when it comes to forming a special extradition treaty.
But the Government is open to China applying through provisions in the Extradition Act where a prima facie case has to be built in front of NZ courts. This has been used in relation to the US request to extradite Kim Dotcom.
The President has noted New Zealand's concerns.
"China will honour its commitments about [not using] the death penalty," Key said.
"Their concern is - he is genuinely trying to clean up the corruption - which is widespread."
China stepped up its hunt for economic fugitives almost two years ago in "Operation Foxhunt".
It has previously been among the topics Key has discussed with the Chinese leadership and was raised when President Xi Jinping visited this country in November 2014.
Crown Law said late last year it had received no new requests for assistance from Chinese counterparts.
During that time, more than 850 fugitives from 66 countries returned to the People's Republic, Chinese media reported earlier this year.
This suggests that if any of these suspected criminals are in New Zealand, they've so far escaped the eye of their former Government, or have turned themselves in to the Chinese police - as 366 people did last year.
When it launched the campaign, the Chinese Government estimated that 16,000 to 18,000 corrupt officials and employees of state-owned enterprises had fled with pilfered assets of more than 800 billion yuan ($166 billion) since the mid-1990s.
- additional reporting Hamish Fletcher
- NZ Herald