Corrupt Chinese officials siphoned more than $120 billion out of the country in less than two decades, the central bank has said in a study highlighting the widespread scourge of government graft.
Between 16,000 and 18,000 government officials and executives of state-owned firms have fled China or simply vanished with up to 800 billion yuan ($123.7 billion) in illegal gains, according to the study released earlier this week.
Higher-ranking officials carrying larger sums of money mostly fled to developed nations such as the United States, Canada and Australia, while others tended to choose regional nations including Russia and Thailand, it said.
A number of defectors used Hong Kong as a springboard to Commonwealth states while others hid out in small nations in Africa, Latin America and eastern Europe before they could get the documents needed to go to the West, it said.
The rampant transfer of graft money out of China could "undermine the foundation of the Party's rule" and has harmed the country's economy, warned the study, which was based on data compiled in June 2008.
"Firmly punishing and effectively preventing corruption are critical to the winning or losing of public support and the life or death of the Party and therefore is a key political task the Party must handle well," it said.
Official graft remains pervasive in China and is a major source of public resentment towards the government despite numerous clean-up campaigns.
President Hu Jintao and other top leaders have repeatedly called endemic corruption in China a threat to the Communist Party's legitimacy and pledged to stamp out the illegal behaviour.
Some offenders highlighted in the central bank report simply carried cash in their suitcases when they crossed the border out of China or transferred money via illegal, private channels, the report said.
More sophisticated transactions included forging fake contracts, stealing from state-owned companies by siphoning overseas assets or setting up front companies in offshore markets, it said.
Many officials also sent their relatives or lovers abroad first to buy properties and other assets or set up companies to receive their illegal gains - a more recent trend, it added.