The bilateral treaty signed by China and Canada to facilitate the recovery of assets salted away overseas by corrupt officials or businesspeople is the first of its kind between the People's Republic and a Western country, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"The agreement provides a new legal basis for the return of assets illegally sent to either country and opens a new channel for China's cooperation with other nations," said Sun Ang, a senior official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
According to Sun, if a court rules that illegally transferred funds or assets belong to a specific person or enterprise within their own country, the recipient country will return them in accordance with the law.
If the courts are unable to identify the rightful owners, judicial officers will confiscate the assets and determine the proportion that should be shared with the other country.
Lei Ming, a senior official at the Ministry of Public Security's economic crimes investigation department, said the agreement reflects "the Chinese government's resolute determination to recover illegal funds and sends a strong signal that other countries will never be safe havens for the fugitives' criminal earnings".
"Fugitives should never believe that it is safe to place their ill-gotten gains overseas, and if they insist on defying the law, they will eventually receive severe punishments and their illegal assets will be confiscated," he said.
In recent years, a large number of corrupt officials have fled China and headed for popular destinations, including the United States and Canada, to avoid punishment, while illegally transferring billions of yuan to overseas bank accounts via money laundering channels and underground banks.
In April last year, Interpol issued red notices－international arrest warrants－to find the top 100 corrupt Chinese officials overseas and confiscate their assets. Since then, 35 have returned to face trial, including eight from Canada. However, only a small portion of the illegally transferred funds has been recovered.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, China will improve cooperation on law enforcement with the relevant countries, and sign similar bilateral agreements with more Western countries, including the US, France and Australia, to recover and share misappropriated assets.
"No matter where they go and how much they have transferred in ill-gotten gains, we will use every means to bring them back," Sun said.