During his recent visit, Chinese President Xi Jinping sought New Zealand's help to return a number of fugitives who had fled China with the proceeds of corruption, Prime Minister John Key says.

Asked this afternoon whether he and Mr Xi had discussed issues around wealthy Chinese coming to New Zealand and buying real estate, Mr Key said there had been talks "about (Chinese) nationals that may come to a country like New Zealand and other countries around the world with the proceeds of money that he would claim is not theirs and is from corrupt activities".

"Ultimately, as I said to him, we do the very best that we can when someone comes to New Zealand to ensure that those funds are legitimate but it's a difficult exercise for us."

During the discussion which took place over dinner, the Chinese President " indicated that he thought there were a few people" in New Zealand that China wanted returned to face legal action.


"He didn't go into specific names and I could always sort of guess names about one or two high profile people that you're never really quite sure? It's a reasonable number that they believe may be in New Zealand with those kind of resources."

New Zealand currently doesn't have an extradition treaty with China, partly because China still has the death penalty but Mr Key indicated a treaty was the subject of ongoing discussions between officials from both countries.

He noted China had recently signed extradition treaties with a number of countries " excluding the death penalty and torture from those people that would be returned".

In any future treaty, "we'd have to have a high degree of confidence that our conditions could be met", Mr Key said.

Apart from fugitives accused of corruption, Mr Key said there was particular case involving allegations of sexually inappropriate behaviour which he and Mr Xi discussed.

The return of that person to China would not require an extradition treaty.

"It's more than likely that that person will be returned to China? we're obviously working our way through making sure that we're comfortable that the human rights conditions that we'll put around the return of that individual will be met."