Alleged Chinese smuggling kingpin confesses: Xinhua

BEIJING, December 30, 2011 (AFP) - Alleged Chinese smuggling kingpin Lai Changxing, who Canada deported after a 12-year legal battle, has "confessed" and is being handed over to prosecutors, state-run media said on Friday.

Lai, who was extradited in July after China promised he would not be executed, was handed over for prosecution in the southeastern city of Xiamen after investigation of his case closed, the Xinhua news agency said.

"Lai and other members of the smuggling gang confessed to the smuggling and bribery crimes they have committed," Xinhua reported.

The local customs and anti-smuggling office said Lai was transferred for prosecution to the public procurator in Xiamen, in Fujian province.
"Xiamen people's procuratorate has accepted the case in accordance with the law," Xinhua said.

Lai is accused of running a Fujian smuggling ring that moved contraband estimated to be worth $6 billion-$10 billion, in what state media has said could prove the largest economic crime since the Communists' rise in 1949.

China Central Television broadcast video of Lai, wearing glasses and civilian clothes, signing a document while in handcuffs and flanked by uniformed police, who then loaded him into an armoured prison van.

Lai the fugitive had been at the centre of a diplomatic tug-of-war that for years tested Sino-Canadian relations as Canada's courts and refugee board blocked his repatriation out of fear he could be executed or tortured in China.

Canada, which does not have capital punishment, bans the return of prisoners to countries where they might be put to death.

But China issued an unusual promise not to execute Lai -- believed to be 53-years-old -- if he is tried and found guilty.

China is believed to execute more convicts each year than all other nations that practice capital punishment combined.

Lai will now probably face trial in China and a lengthy prison sentence if convicted.

China has executed people for a range of financial crimes but it recently removed some economic offences from that list in an overhaul of the death penalty, including some types of smuggling and tax fraud.

The proceedings are sensitive for China, which has vowed to rein in rampant corruption.