First ever 'Chinese spy' extradited to stand trial in US

Blanche Robertson
October 11, 2018

Yanjun Xu, who Uncle Sam says is the deputy director the Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS), has been charged with one count each of economic espionage and trade secret theft.

Federal agents lured a Chinese government spy to Belgium and arrested him. The Washington Post reported he was lured to Belgium by U.S. agents.

The FBI called it an unprecedented extradition and said the indictment showed the direct oversight of China's government in economic espionage against the United States.

However, this case stands out, as it is believed to be the first time a Chinese intelligence officer has been extradited from a third country to go on trial in the US.

"Beginning in at least December 2013 and continuing until his arrest, Xu targeted certain companies inside and outside the United States that are recognised as leaders in the aviation field", the Justice Department said in its announcement of the arrest.

GE Aviation is a top manufacturer of jet and turboprop engines and components for commercial, military, business and general aviation aircraft.

Three U.S. companies were involved in the technology theft operations and were identified only as victim companies A, B, and C.

Xu recruited the experts to travel to China, often under the guise of asking them to deliver a university presentation and passing himself off as an official with the Jiangsu Science and Technology Promotion Association [JAST].

A man the U.S. claims is a Chinese intelligence officer stood before a court on Wednesday, after being flown to the USA from Belgium in an "unprecedented" extradition.

"This case is not an isolated incident", the head of the Justice Department's National Security Division, John Demers, said in a statement.

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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.

"We can not tolerate a nation's stealing our firepower and the fruits of our brainpower".

Lawyers for Xu didn't immediately respond to email messages seeking comment.

The US has charged a suspected Chinese spy with attempting to steal secrets from top American aviation and aerospace companies after he was tracked down and detained in Belgium.

"Currently, the Ministry of State Security (MSS) is the primary government agency engaged in the majority of cyber attacks with Chinese-government nexus, and CrowdStrike has observed multiple intrusions demonstrating their sophisticated tradecraft", Dmitri Alperovitch, Co-Founder and CTO of U.S. cyber-intelligence firm CrowdStrike, told ZDNet today.

Cybersecurity experts said former US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping had reached an understanding in 2015 on cyber espionage, but the agreement appeared be withering away.

Responding to the arrest of Mr Xu, former USA state department official Chris Painter - who negotiated the agreement - said it was "not surprising that now the relationship has deteriorated, so has the agreement".

According to the Washington Post, one of Xu's alleged coconspirators is Ji Chaoqun, a Chicago man arrested last month.

NBC News on Tuesday quoted USA officials as saying a professor at a top cancer research center in Houston facing child pornography charges was also under scrutiny for alleged economic espionage for China.

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