© Reuters. Chinese and U.S. flags flutter near The Bund in Shanghai
© Reuters. Chinese and U.S. flags flutter near The Bund in Shanghai

By Yew Lun Tian

BEIJING (Reuters) – China said on Friday the United States should not become a haven for Chinese criminals’ ill-gotten wealth and it denied that five people arrested in the United States for conspiring to coerce a Chinese family to go home were its law enforcement officers.

U.S. authorities charged eight people this week with conspiring to act as illegal agents for a foreign government and alleged they were working on China’s behalf in a plot involving threatening letters and the use of night-vision goggles to surveil and coerce a Chinese family to return to home to face charges.

China has for years been trying to recover stolen money taken overseas as part of a crackdown on corruption. It has also tried to get international cooperation to track corrupt officials since President Xi Jinping began a war on graft nearly a decade ago.

Five of the people charged in the United States, including an American private investigator, were arrested on Wednesday in New Jersey, New York and California, while the rest are believed to be in China, U.S. Justice officials said.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a briefing the United States should stop the “baseless accusation and smears about Chinese efforts to pursue escaped criminals and recover stolen monies”.

“We urge the United States … to shoulder its international obligations and promise, stop coveting after the ill-gotten gains of criminals, and don’t be a safe haven for criminals and their illegal assets,” he said.

He said the people arrested in the United States were not Chinese law enforcement officers, dismissig the charges against them as “rumours and smears”.

China’s launched a multi-agency campaign known as “Sky Net” in 2014 to get fugitives abroad to return to face charges.

The United States does not have an extradition treaty with China. It requires anyone who acting on a foreign country’s behalf to register and notify the Attorney General’s office.

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