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China names top 100 fugitives suspected of corruption, believes majority went to US or Canada

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BEIJING — China has issued a list of its top 100 officials and others wanted on suspicion of corruption who are believed to have fled abroad, the latest step in President Xi Jinping's aggressive campaign to rein in graft.

Photos of the suspects were splashed across two pages of the official China Daily newspaper on Thursday, along with their suspected crimes and personal information such as ages, hometowns and languages they speak. Bribery, embezzlement and fraud appeared to be the most common charges.

In a statement on its website, the ruling Communist Party's corruption watchdog agency said Interpol has issued arrest notices for all 100. The body, known as the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, said the majority of fugitives were believed to have fled to the U.S. and Canada.

China's methods for chasing down corrupt officials are growing in both intensity and creativity, the commission said.

"We will strengthen cooperation with the law enforcement agencies of relevant countries, fully avail ourselves of all available resources and turn corrupt elements into objects of hatred to be snatched back and made to face justice," the commission said.

The announcement follows China's launch of its latest transnational operation codenamed "Sky Net" seeking the return of suspects from abroad. China says an earlier campaign, "Fox Hunt," saw the return of almost 700 fugitives suspected of economic crimes, some in return for lighter punishments or other inducements.

Xi's war on corruption launched in 2013 has seen thousands of officials investigated and the arrests of numerous serving or former bigwigs.

Beijing estimates that since the mid-1990s, 16,000 to 18,000 corrupt officials and employees of state-owned enterprises have fled China or gone into hiding with pilfered assets totaling more than 800 billion yuan ($135 billion).

The commission's report showed 23 of the most-wanted officials were women and the southern industrial heartland of Guangdong accounted for the single largest group of fugitives — 15. The high-water mark for fugitives absconding was 2013, with 12 fleeing, before the number fell last year to eight.

Those wanted ranged from bank managers to local government economic development officials, state-run company staffers and even the head of a driving school. They included Yang Xiuzhu, former deputy head of the construction bureau in the wealthy eastern province of Zhejiang, who was accused of fleeing to the U.S. after embezzling more than $40 million in government funds.

New Zealand was the third most popular destination for fugitives, with between 11 and 20 thought to have fled there, followed by a wide range of nations from South Korea to Sudan, the commission said.

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