Corrupt Chinese officials and executives absconded overseas with roughly $120 billion from the mid-1990s to 2008, and the United States was the most popular destination, according to a report from China's central bank.
Other top getaways for the estimated 16,000 to 18,000 high-ranking embezzlers included Canada, Australia and the Netherlands, according to the bank's Anti-Money Laundering Monitoring and Analysis Center. Low-ranking officials usually fled closer to home -- Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Mongolia and Russia.
Officials and executives of state-owned enterprises who could not get visas for prominent Western countries generally went to Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe to wait for a chance to move on and up.
Chinese media reported earlier this week that the "confidential" report briefly appeared on the website of the People's Bank of China, the country's equivalent of the Federal Reserve, but has since been removed. The 67-page document cites statistics released by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and remains available in Chinese (pdf), the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
In an article headlined "Destination America for China's corrupt officials," the Shanghai Daily summarized the report's findings:
Corrupt officials used several methods to illegally transfer assets abroad including large cash withdrawals using credit cards overseas, according to the report by the central bank's anti-money laundering monitoring and analysis center. Fake trade documents were also used to transfer capital out of China.
The report said transferring money to relatives, mistresses and other individuals had become a new way for corrupt officials to transfer assets abroad, as shown by major corruption cases uncovered in recent years. Some turned to cash smuggling, but that was a high-risk enterprise.
Other methods included overseas investments, making use of offshore financial centers and taking bribes overseas.
The central bank said that authorities in "sensitive industries" such as finance, state-owned monopolies, transport, land and construction sectors and tax, trade and investment departments should increase inspections and strengthen cooperation between banking regulators and other government bodies to fight money laundering.
Here's how the official China Daily handled the report.
How did such a revelatory report see the light of day? It won first place in the China Society for Finance and Banking's annual awards for financial research, so proud central bank officials posted it online despite warnings it was for internal consumption only. Moments after domestic media began reporting the findings, it disappeared from the bank's site.
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