China launched its latest initiative to catch corrupt officials who fled abroad, officials said.
The second stage of "SkyNet 2016" was launched Thursday to uncover transfers of ill-gained financial assets through offshore companies and underground banks, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said online.
The move builds on the operation's first stage in March last year, which seized 857 people around the world, according to a report in the official People's Daily.
The latest announcement follows the leak of the so-called Panama Papers, which revealed how financial services company Mossack Fonseca assisted high-end clients around the world shield assets from tax obligations and scrutiny. Nearly a third of the company's business came from its offices in Hong Kong and mainland China.
Beijing was preparing to issue a new list of wanted officials, the deputy director of the CCDI’s International Cooperation Bureau said last month.
Under Operation Foxhunt, which falls under the Skynet umbrella and attempts to "block the last route of retreat for corrupt officials," China sends agents overseas to cajole or coerce fugitives to return.
The most popular destinations for Chinese officials absconding abroad are the United States, Canada and Australia, none of which have extradition treaties with Beijing, largely on account of China's use of the death penalty.
An estimated 16,000 to 18,000 former officials fled with 800 billion yuan (120 billion dollars) from the mid-1990s to 2008, according to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.