Chi­nese spy charged in U.S.

Sus­pect in at­tempted theft of avi­a­tion se­crets is ex­tra­dited from Bel­gium.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD -

A Chi­nese spy who al­legedly at­tempted to steal trade se­crets from sev­eral Amer­i­can avi­a­tion and aero­space com­pa­nies was charged Wed­nes­day and ex­tra­dited to the U.S. from Bel­gium.

Yan­jun Xu, an op­er­a­tive of the Chi­nese Min­istry of State Se­cu­rity, is ac­cused of re­cruit­ing ex­perts who worked at avi­a­tion com­pa­nies and pay­ing them stipends to travel to China in order to ob­tain trade se­crets, the Jus­tice De­part­ment said.

From 2013 un­til he was ar­rested in April, Xu would re­cruit em­ploy­ees from ma­jor aero­space com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing GE Avi­a­tion, and per­suade them to travel to China un­der the guise that they would give a pre­sen­ta­tion at a univer­sity, pros­e­cu­tors said. Court pa­pers doc­u­ment how Xu and other in­tel­li­gence op­er­a­tives planned to ob­tain “highly sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion” from the ex­perts.

Xu was in­dicted on four counts of con­spir­ing and at­tempt­ing to com­mit es­pi­onage and theft of trade se­crets.

Fed­eral au­thor­i­ties said it’s the first time that a Min­istry of State Se­cu­rity in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer has been ex­tra­dited to the United States for trial.

John De­mers, the as­sis­tant at­tor­ney gen­eral in charge of na­tional se­cu­rity, said the case was a “sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic es­pi­onage mat­ter” and was the lat­est proof that China is try­ing to steal in­for­ma­tion from Amer­i­can com­pa­nies.

Ben­jamin Glass­man, U.S. at­tor­ney for Ohio’s south­ern dis­trict, said no mil­i­tary in­for­ma­tion was tar­geted, but any at­tempt by other coun­tries to “grow com­pa­nies at Amer­ica’s ex­pense” is con­sid­ered a threat to na­tional se­cu­rity.

Ac­cord­ing to the in­dict­ment, Xu re­cruited a GE Avi­a­tion em­ployee, who sent him a pre­sen­ta­tion in Fe­bru­ary that con­tained the com­pany’s pro­pri­etary in­for­ma­tion. Xu later fol­lowed up with the em­ployee ask­ing for spe­cific tech­ni­cal in­for­ma­tion and then asked the em­ployee to meet in Europe, where he wanted the worker to pro­vide ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion from GE, ac­cord­ing to court pa­pers.

Xu was ar­rested af­ter trav­el­ing to Bel­gium in April. Af­ter his ap­peals failed, he was ex­tra­dited to the United States on Tues­day and made his first court ap­pear­ance Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon in fed­eral court in Cincin­nati. It was un­clear whether Xu had an at­tor­ney.

Glass­man spoke of “red flags” in the in­ter­ac­tions be­tween Xu and the em­ployee. He said GE Avi­a­tion teamed with the FBI but would not in­di­cate which or­ga­ni­za­tion alerted the other of sus­pected es­pi­onage.

He also de­clined to spec­ify at what point the em­ployee was made aware of the sit­u­a­tion.

Glass­man said he had no plans to charge the GE Avi­a­tion em­ployee, who no longer works at the com­pany.

A spokesman for GE Avi­a­tion, a Gen­eral Elec­tric Co. di­vi­sion based in sub­ur­ban Cincin­nati that of­ten works un­der De­part­ment of De­fense con­tracts, said it’s been co­op­er­at­ing for months with the FBI in a case that tar­geted a for­mer em­ployee.

“The im­pact to GE Avi­a­tion is min­i­mal thanks to early de­tec­tion, our ad­vanced dig­i­tal sys­tems and in­ter­nal pro­cesses, and our part­ner­ship with the FBI,” spokesman Perry Bradley said.

John Minchillo As­so­ci­ated Press

FBI AGENT Herb Sta­ple­ton an­nounces the charges in Cincin­nati. U.S. Atty. Ben­jamin Glass­man, left, said the al­leged crime was a threat to na­tional se­cu­rity.

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