BEIJING, Nov. 17 (UPI) -- An international Chinese manhunt, targeting officials suspected of financial crimes who have left the country, led to the arrests of 288 people since July, the government announced Monday.
The Ministry of Public Security added 21 of the suspects were at large, in other countries, for over 10 years. The ministry urged those suspected of crimes to turn themselves in before penalties get harsher Dec. 1 -- 126 did so.
The concentration on finding the suspects in foreign countries, called "Operation Fox Hunt," was prompted by the government's belief over 18,000 officials and former officials have fled the country, taking a total of $129 billion with then, in the past 20 years. China is in the midst of an anti-corruption and anti-graft campaign ordered by President Xi Jinping. The operation began in July to "block the last route of retreat" for corrupt officials, the state-run Xinhua news agency said Monday.
The ministry sent investigators to each country suspected of harboring suspects, Xinhua said, including those, like the United States and Australia, which have no extradition treaty with China. A cross-border anti-corruption agreement, which includes China, was signed days after last week's APEC summit in Beijing.
"The economic fugitives seem like the crafty foxes who have fled overseas to avoid punishment, but we, the wise hunters, will nail them. No matter where they are, or who they are, we will catch them," Liu Dong, Ministry of Public Security deputy director of the economic crimes unit, said in September.