US claims Chinese spies meddled in major telecoms case
Two suspected Chinese intelligence agents sought to interfere with the US Justice Department’s prosecution of an unnamed Chinese telecoms company, Attorney General Merrick Garland claimed during a Monday press conference.
The prosecutor unveiled charges against a total of 13 individuals, including ten of Beijing’s nationals.
Guochun He and Zheng Wang are charged with attempting to obstruct an investigation into the company, which the Associated Press reports is Huawei, based on clues in the court documents unsealed on Monday. The two Chinese intelligence officers allegedly contacted an individual who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent in 2017, seeking to obtain information about witnesses, trial evidence and potential new charges.
He, who allegedly paid $41,000 in Bitcoin for the information, has also been charged with money laundering. The “purportedly sensitive information” supplied by the FBI agent included a planted document describing a fake plan to round up Huawei executives in the US.
Four other Chinese nationals have been charged with seeking to obtain sensitive technology and equipment under the cover of a Chinese academic institute over a 10-year period and interfering with protests that “would have been embarrassing to the Chinese government.”
Another two individuals were arrested and five more were charged with harassing a Chinese national living in the US to return to China on behalf of Beijing.
“Today’s cases make clear that Chinese agents will not hesitate to break the law and to violate international norms in the process,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco told reporters.
While only two of the 13 accused are in custody, it is unlikely that the other 11 will be apprehended, according to the AP.
Huawei was charged with bank fraud in 2019 and in 2020 with racketeering conspiracy, theft of trade secrets, and sanctions violations. The charges were also leveled at the company’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, following her arrest in Vancouver airport in 2018.
After nearly three years under house arrest on what Beijing described as “totally fabricated” charges, Meng was finally sent home to China in September 2021, but the charges against her company have remained, and Huawei is forbidden from doing business in the US.
Washington has also leaned on its allies in Europe and Australia, pressuring them to exclude Huawei from their telecoms infrastructures.