Chinese intelligence officer sentenced to 20 years in espionage case

Washington — A Chinese intelligence officer convicted of economic espionage and stealing aviation trade secrets from companies including General Electric (GE) was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison on Wednesday, a year after a jury in Ohio. convicted him in all respects.

Yanjun Xu, the deputy division director of China’s intelligence branch, known as the Ministry of State Security (MSS), was named as an accused in 2018. Select executives from foreign technology companies and work to extract the desired information from them.

The Justice Department said that at times using aliases and acting under the guise of Chinese universities, Xu attempted to steal technology related to GE Aviation’s composite aircraft engine fan, which has not been replicated by any other company in the world . Prosecutors said he arranged and paid for apparently undisclosed industry experts to travel to China in an effort to obtain information.

A GE employee who was in contact with Xu and his co-conspirators gave a presentation at a Chinese university in 2017 that investigators said included details about engines designed and manufactured by the American company.

According to the government’s sentencing memo, after the GE employee returned to the US, the FBI intercepted communications between the employee and Xu to infiltrate the operation. It was during this time that investigators say the MSS official asked the American employee to “betray” his company, writing under the guise of a Chinese university, “I’ll touch base with the Department of Scientific Research here, see to it.” For which technology is desired and I will tell you in January of 2018 what to prepare. [sic] on system code.”

“Xu engaged in a widespread pattern of fraud, computer hacking and theft,” prosecutors wrote in court documents ahead of Wednesday’s sentencing. “They have made a career out of committing these crimes against foreign companies with the belief that they will never face the consequences of their actions.”

Xu’s crimes came to light in 2018, when he was arrested in belgium and was later extradited to the US to face prosecution. The government argued that he was ultimately convicted of “extortion” of an American employee “to achieve his illegal objectives”.

Prosecutors asked for a sentence of 25 years behind bars, a lengthy sentence for the first Chinese intelligence officer to be extradited to the US to stand trial. Xu’s crimes, he said, should be punished to deter others from running similar schemes.

But in its own pre-sentence memo, Xu’s legal team opposed the government’s stance “far in excess of the sentences received by other individuals convicted of crimes involving theft or attempted theft of trade secrets.”

He argued that the Chinese officer was serving his country as he carried out the plan. Describing Xu as a father, husband and devoted family man, defense attorneys wrote the defendant, “was acting to advance the interests of his country. He was a rogue operative, or criminal mastermind or , was not, in fact, acting in any way outside the scope of his employment.”

Xu’s lawyers urged the judge to send him away for 55 months, saying, “The government suggests that the prosecution and harsh punishment of an alleged Chinese intelligence officer harms an entire country, an entire government structure, an entire political agenda.” Will ‘bother’.”

Xu was also accused of acting as the handler for a recently convicted MSS agent in Chicago and directing an asset to install malware against a French aerospace manufacturer.

Ohio Judge Timothy Black sentenced Xu to 20 years in prison on Wednesday, with Attorney General Merrick Garland saying the sentence reflects “the seriousness of those crimes and the efforts by the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute the Chinese government, or any foreign power.” Shows determination to run.” To put our economic and national security at risk.”

China’s predatory trade tactics and allegations of espionage have come under scrutiny by federal investigators and the FBI in recent years. On Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray told a House panel that China is the greatest long-term threat to US national security, adding that Chinese agents will employ a range of illegal tactics to surpass America as a superpower on the world stage .

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