China and the US have played a pivotal role in escalating global efforts to fight corruption, following the recent APEC Summit in Beijing and the G20 meeting last week in Brisbane, Australia.
The 21 members of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation group (APEC), which includes Australia, Canada, China, Indonesia, Japan and the US, signed the “Beijing Declaration on Fighting Corruption” in early November. This document reaffirmed their “commitment to denying safe haven to those engaged in corruption, including through extradition, mutual legal assistance, and the recovery and return of proceeds of corruption”. The establishment of a new multilateral body - the APEC Network of Anti-Corruption Authorities and Law Enforcement Agencies (ACT-NET) – was also announced. ACT-NET is designed to increase co-operation between anti-corruption authorities and law enforcement agencies, by focusing on detecting, investigating and prosecuting corruption, bribery, money laundering, and illicit trade.
The G20 leaders endorsed the “2015-16 G20 Anti-Corruption Action Plan”, which includes a commitment to promoting asset recovery, denying safe havens to corrupt officials and increasing international cooperation “including mutual legal assistance and extradition”. Under the plan, the G20 group have agreed to share information about the owners of shell companies and trusts that are frequently used by individuals seeking to evade taxes, launder money and hide the proceeds of corrupt activity.
China’s decision to support these multilateral efforts is a key element of President Xi Jinping’s nationwide crackdown on corruption. It is also a sign that Beijing no longer views the fight against corruption as simply a domestic issue. The international aspects of the anti-corruption campaign began in July 2013, when China implemented the United Nations Anti-Corruption Convention and launched actions with Canadian and US authorities to seize the proceeds of corrupt activity.
The announcements at the APEC Summit and G20 conference follow the launch of “Operation Fox Hunt” in Beijing in July of this year. Led by the Ministry of Public Security, the “hunt” is a global search for corrupt Chinese officials who have fled China, allegedly taking with them billions of dollars in public funds. The Vice Minister of Public Security, Liu Jinguo, recently announced that 288 suspects have been arrested in 56 different countries, including Argentina, Canada, Japan, Nigeria, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, and the US. Over 10 billion yuan (US$ 1.63 billion) in illegally obtained funds have also been seized. In Australia, the Federal Police have announced the first ever joint China-Australia police operation, targeting Chinese officials who have fled to Australia, allegedly taking with them an estimated AU$ 1 billion (US$ 883 million) in bribes and other assets.