A Chinese property developer residing in Melbourne, Australia has found himself embroiled in an anti-corruption battle, reports Australian newspaper The Age.
The fallout from Xi Jinping’s war on corruption is being felt in the lavish beachside suburb of Brighton, the home of Chinese property developer Zheng Jiefu. The crackdown has become an international effort since the launch of Operation Fox Hunt in July 2014, which aimed to track down corrupt officials who had taken refuge overseas. The campaign had captured 680 fugitives suspected of economic crimes and repatriated them to China by the end of the year.
Australia, the United States and Canada are cited as the three biggest targets of the sting. Despite there being no formal extradition treaty in force between Australia and China (due to Australian concerns over human rights and capital punishment in China), Australian police agreed in October 2014 to assist in the seizure of assets and extradition of seven corrupt officials belonging to a jointly-agreed ‘priority list’.
Zheng is embroiled in the anti-corrutpion drama as he wishes to return to China to testify against Ma Jian, the former vice-minister of the Ministry of State Security and subject of an investigation which has already turned up six villas and six mistresses. Zheng claims that after moving to Australia in 2008, he endured a six-year business shakedown by Ma and businessman Guo Wengui (currently in New York), which dismantled his $2 billion Tianjin Bohai Circle conglomerate.
Zheng also alleges that Ma and Guo have menaced him by threatening his family and arriving at his door flanked by a number of intimidating henchmen dressed in sunglasses and trench coats. Recently, Zheng said he noticed a four-wheel drive parked outside his Australian home which proceeded to follow him around the city for two hours one night.
He also received a frightening message in his letterbox warning him not to return to China:
Old Zheng, Returning home is fine. Let’s meet in China. You know the price if you tell tales when you are back … The lives of your whole family are in our hands. Take care, you understand.
Zheng also claims to possess information that would implicate Guo’s son and the son of another corrupt official who was killed in a mysterious Ferrari accident involving two scantily-clad women in Beijing in 2012.
This incident highlights the battles taking place on overseas frontiers in the anti-corruption crusade. While China’s main “discipline” body has dispatched 61 agents abroad to persuade fugitives to return, it would seem the fugitives themselves are utilising their own assets to evade capture and unnerve potential attesters. Meanwhile, the fight against fleeing officials continues, with Operation Sky Net coming into force this month and a particular focus directed at underground banks and confiscating misappropriated assets.
By Liam Bourke