Five alleged Chinese intelligence officials have been indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice in two separate cases, one of which reportedly involves an ongoing criminal investigation into Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, according to indictments unsealed on Monday.
A further seven people were also charged – and two already arrested – as part of a third case linked to Beijing’s “extralegal” efforts to repatriate dissidents under the “Operation Fox Hunt” program, an official said.
The first indictment accuses two spies of trying to buy documents about a probe into a “global telecommunications company” – identified by Bloomberg as Huawei – from an FBI double agent, while the second accuses three spies and a fourth person of unrelated work for Beijing.
U.S. Attorney-General Merrick Garland said at a press conference that the first case involved a botched attempt to buy criminal prosecution documents from an employee of a U.S. law enforcement agency.
“The defendants believed that they had recruited the U.S. employee as an asset, but in fact the individual they recruited was actually a double agent working on behalf of the FBI,” Garland said, adding they wanted files from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York.
The pair had hopes of “obtaining the prosecution’s strategy memo, confidential information regarding witnesses, trial evidence and potential new charges to be brought against the company,” he said.
The indictment identifies the alleged spies as Guochen He and Zheng Wang and says they paid about $61,000 to the FBI double agent.
Garland said the double agent provided documents that “appeared to provide” the information, but was in fact fake. He called it “an egregious attempt by PRC intelligence officers to shield a PRC-based company from accountability,” referring to the People’s Republic of China.
Huawei is being investigated for racketeering and conspiring to steal trade secrets, with the Department of Justice accusing the company in 2020 of “using fraud and deception” to try to steal U.S. technology.
The second case accuses three spies and a fourth person of using “the cover of a purported Chinese academic institute to target, co-opt and direct individuals in the United States to further the PRC’s intelligence mission,” including sending “technology and equipment” to China, Garland said.
In a third case, seven other people were charged for taking part in Beijing’s Operation Fox Hunt, the attorney-general said.
Two people have already been arrested over the “campaign of harassment, threats, surveillance and intimidation” aimed to coerce a dissident to return from the United States to China, he said, including warnings that their family would face “endless misery” until they returned.
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