A Chinese businessman deported from Canada after more than a decade on the run was found guilty of contract fraud yesterday and sentenced to 15 years in jail, in what his lawyer and family said is a test case for Chinese fugitives around the world.
Zeng Hanlin (曾漢林), who fled to Canada in 1999, was charged in connection with a failed business merger, his Canada-based lawyer Daniel Kingwell said.
Zeng fought unsuccessfully for refugee status and was deported in February last year when Canada ruled his fear of the death penalty, torture and an unfair trial were unfounded, Kingwell said.
Zeng’s family complained that the media were not allowed into the trial on Nov. 17 or when the verdict was given yesterday.
His son, Sam Zeng (曾薩姆), one of two family members allowed into the courtroom in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, said a previous lawyer who was locally hired told him he was under pressure to persuade his father to confess to the charge.
According to a report from Xinhua news agency when Zeng arrived back in China, there have been three previous cases of people extradited from Canada to face charges on financial crimes. The two countries do not have an extradition treaty.
Kingwell wrote in an e-mail ahead of the verdict that the case had international significance “because it is a test case for the many other Chinese fugitives in Canada and other countries. They are claiming refugee status on the basis that they will not receive a fair trial, among other concerns.”
Last year, Canada also deported Lai Changxing (賴昌星), long considered China’s No. 1 fugitive. He is accused of running a US$10 billion smuggling ring that dealt in everything from cars to oil, in a scandal touching the government’s highest levels.
Lai was extradited after China assured Canada he would not face the death penalty. Last month, state media reported that he had confessed to bribery and smuggling, and prosecutors had indicted him for allegedly masterminding a smuggling network.
At the time, state media said that according to 2010 police statistics there were nearly 600 Chinese suspects at large overseas wanted for economic crimes.
Zeng’s lawyer in court yesterday, Zhu Yalin, said Zeng was convicted of contract fraud and sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment and a 2 million yuan (US$320,000) fine.