US arrests alleged Chinese spy after extradition from Belgium

Remigio Civitarese
Ottobre 11, 2018

The US authorities have charged a Chinese intelligence officer with stealing technology secrets.

The Justice Department unsealed charges Wednesday against a suspected Chinese spy for allegedly conducting economic espionage and trying to steal trade secrets from USA aerospace companies.

Xu was arrested in Belgium on April 1, and within a few days he was secretly indicted by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Ohio.

Beijing on Thursday dismissed United States espionage accusations against an alleged Chinese intelligence agent who was extradited from Belgium as made "out of thin air" - upping the ante in a case likely to exacerbate tensions between the global powers.

China is using traditional spies linked to the MSS for its economic espionage as well as non-traditional spies, including agents among the 350,000 Chinese students in the United States.

The report said the Chinese, along with Russian and other foreign spies, are targeting key technologies related to energy, biotechnology, defense, environmental protection, high-end manufacturing, information, and communications.

NBC News on Tuesday quoted U.S. officials as saying a professor at a top cancer research center in Houston facing child pornography charges was also under scrutiny for alleged economic espionage for China.

"This case is not an isolated incident", the head of the Justice Department's National Security Division, John Demers, said in a statement.

"It is part of an overall economic policy of developing China at American expense", he claimed.

"We can not tolerate a nation's stealing our firepower and the fruits of our brainpower".

According to a U.S. Department of Justice announcement on October 10, Xu Yanjun was a deputy division director within MSS, China's primary intelligence agency.

U.S. prosecutors have unsealed charges against a collared Chinese national, accusing him of stealing trade secrets from American aerospace companies.

The indictment states that from 2013 and up to his arrest, Xu would attract aviation companies' experts to China under the pretext of giving a lecture at a university.

Court papers document how Xu and other intelligence operatives planned to obtain "highly sensitive information" from the experts.

Ohio-based aircraft engine giant GE Aviation was identified as one of the targets of the alleged operation. In reality, the employee, who was paid $3,500 by Xu for the trip, was revealing information to the Chinese government, according to prosecutors.

According to The Washington Post, the man was arrested after being lured to Belgium by USA agents and is suspected of having carried out his crimes since around December 2013.

The indictment returned by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of OH details the interaction between Mr. Xu and two employees of USA companies. In reality, the presentations were part of a scheme to steal trade secrets, according to Justice Department officials.

Often, the Justice Department issues indictments that charge people still in China.

However, this case stands out, as it is believed to be the first time a Chinese intelligence officer has been extradited from a third country to go on trial in the US.

Assistant director of the FBI's Counterintelligence Division, Bill Priestap, said the "unprecedented extradition of a Chinese intelligence officer exposes the Chinese government's direct oversight of economic espionage against the United States".

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