A fugitive businessman in Cyprus will be handed over to Beijing in connection with a money fraud investigation, a move that challenges recent consensus across Europe against Chinese extradition requests, after the suspect’s lawyers gave their consent provided that Cypriot officials will be allowed to visit the defendant and sit in during court proceedings.
According to Phileleftheros, a 49-year-old businessman from China will not fight his extradition after his lawyers told a Larnaca District Court judge during a hearing on Friday that their client had no objection as long as he would be tried “only for suspected offenses” filed against him.
The man, who holds a passport issued by the Marshall Islands, was arrested last month at Larnaca International Airport as he was trying to board an outbound evening flight.
Last year officials from the Chinese embassy in Nicosia were joined by legal experts from Beijing to attend an extradition hearing on an invitation by the Cypriot Justice Ministry
Local media said the suspect, who was wanted by Chinese authorities since July 2020, has been implicated in a case involving money extortion through lending fraud to the tune of €760 million. The list of charges and his exact suspected role in the scheme was not immediately known.
Philenews reported that terms and conditions for the extradition included Cypriot officials being allowed to visit the defendant while in custody as well as attend his trial proceedings.
A similar arrangement took place in Cyprus last year when officials from the Chinese embassy in Nicosia were joined by legal experts from Beijing to attend an extradition hearing on an invitation by the Cypriot Justice Ministry.
But this year, the case comes as China and Cyprus seek to strengthen their cooperation on issues of mutual interest.
The suspect, whose ethnicity has not been made known, went to Larnaca airport on November 13, a week after the Republic of Cyprus refrained from joining 50 UN member states that called on China to “uphold its international human rights obligations.”
In early November mostly western countries signed a statement calling for ''urgent attention'' from the UN against China's “ongoing human rights violations of Uyghurs,” with Nicosia sitting out on the largely symbolic statement.
Beijing has repeatedly denied accusations of human rights violations, arguing there was a different story to be told about Xinjiang.
Nicosia and Beijing have recently revived talks on common interests, with House Speaker Annita Demetriou in October thanking Chinese Ambassador Liu Yantao for Beijing’s “firm principled position” on the Cyprus Problem and reaffirming the island’s commitment to the One China policy.
EU officials have been cranking up the pressure against Beijing as Brussels sought broadening cooperation with Taiwan, but officials later clarified they were not dropping the policy of One China.