Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Cincinatti, OH, United States (4E) – A Chinese spy named Yanjun Xu was charged in federal court in Cincinnati Wednesday afternoon on economic espionage charges. He faces imprisonment in the United States of up to 25 years if convicted.
Xu, a spy for China’s Ministry of State Security (their equivalent of the CIA), was arrested in Belgium last April and extradited to the United States from Belgium on Oct. 9. He was brought to court the very next day. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said this was the first time such an extradition has taken place.
Xu faces four charges of conspiring and attempting to commit economic espionage and theft of trade secrets, according to the indictment. He’s charged with working to get aviation employees to inadvertently reveal trade secrets to the Chinese government.
DOJ said the indictment is the first time a Ministry of State Security spy has been arrested and brought to the United States to face charges.
“This unprecedented extradition of a Chinese intelligence officer exposes the Chinese government’s direct oversight of economic espionage against the United States,” said Bill Priestap, assistant director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division.
DOJ said Xu was one of several Ministry of State Security officials who targeted Western aviation industry experts in at least three companies. The Chinese then invited their targets to China under the guise of speaking at universities.
The indictment, however, said these presentations were purely for the benefit of the Chinese government. The presentations often included highly technical discussions about a company’s secrets.
The indictment also said Xu and his comrades at the Ministry of State Security officers worked to “protect and conceal the true nature of the information they were seeking” and paid for the experts’ travel, lodging and stipends.
“Effectively Xu and his (Chinese Ministry of State Security) colleagues sought to groom experts to hand over trade secrets,” said Ben Glassman, the US attorney for the Southern District of Ohio.He said China has made clear that it has a program where it is seeking to acquire leading technological information in this industry and several others.
“Companies should see that Chinese officials are seeking to acquire their intellectual property, not only through hacking, but also through the recruitment of insiders,” said Glassman.
“Companies should also see that working together with federal law enforcement authorities, as in this case, those attempted thefts can be thwarted and foreign actors can be brought to trial for their actions.”
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