Lai Changxing, China's most-wanted fugitive, might get a lenient sentence if he returns voluntarily after spending almost a decade hiding in Canada, Chinese legal experts said yesterday.
The 51-year-old Lai reportedly expressed his desire to return to "his motherland" during an interview with the Chinese Business View (CBV) in Vancouver, Canada, CBV reported yesterday.
"I've been under a lot of pressure in the past 10 years, both financially and mentally," said Lai, who allegedly masterminded a smuggling scheme involving $10 billion that touched off a high-profile corruption scandal in East China's Fujian province in the 1990s.
Lai's ex-wife, Zeng Mingna, who divorced Lai in 2005 in Canada, has returned to China along with their daughter on their own, Jason Kenney, Canada's minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism confirmed on Wednesday.
"The reason why Lai's ex-wife is permitted to return to China (without impediments) is that they are now divorced and she cannot be used anymore," David Matas, Lai's lawyer, told China Daily yesterday.
Lai was quoted as saying he always wanted to return to China. He has kept regular contact with his relatives in his hometown - Jinjiang of Fujian.
Lai did not deny allegations against him of tax evasion and tax fraud, and said he was prepared for imprisonment, the CBV reported. Beside tax evasion and fraud, Lai was charged with smuggling and bribery, which he failed to mention in the CBV report.
His company, Yuanhua, which means Fair Well, was allegedly a front for smuggling everything from cigarettes and guns to cars and oil into China without paying duties.
Canadian officials, however, have been unwilling to allow Lai's extradition because he could be sentenced to death, although China has promised not to give Lai the death sentence.