Italy extradites Chinese 'fraudster'

Chinese 100 yuan banknotes are seen in Beijing 7 May 2013. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Ms Zhang had stolen more than 1.4m yuan from clients

A Chinese woman accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from clients at a financial firm has been extradited from Italy.

Chinese media claimed it was the first time a fraud suspect had been extradited from a European country.

The woman, surnamed Zhang, had been living in Italy for nine years.

China last year launched an extradition project codenamed Operation Fox Hunt to repatriate fraud suspects and corrupt officials who had fled the country.

Ms Zhang is accused of stealing more than 1.4m yuan ($224,000; £147,700) from clients at a firm in the northern province of Hebei between 2000 and 2005.

She fled to Italy in October 2005, and Chinese authorities requested help from their Italian counterparts to capture her.

The Italian police detained her in October last year and she landed back in China on Tuesday under police escort.

China is pressing other countries for help in the hunt for economic fugitives - many of them Communist Party officials accused of stealing state funds, says the BBC's Celia Hatton in Beijing.

Operation Fox Hunt took place between July and December last year, and led to the extradition of 680 accused criminals back to China from 69 places, according to Xinhua state news agency.

Those found guilty of corruption in China can face a death penalty. It is not known what Ms Zhang will be charged with.

China's President Xi Jinping launched a crackdown on corruption when he took office in 2012.

Since then, authorities have not only gone after party officials and civil servants, but also individuals in the private sector.

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