BREAKING….multiple charges and arrests in US of mostly Chinese intelligence agents, in case involving a PRC telecoms firm
Tensions between the United States and China flared on Monday, after the US announced multiple arrests and charges against individuals from the People’s Republic of China (PRC), said to be mostly Chinese intelligence agents.
It is hard to overstate the significance of the US charges, in a case that sounds like something out of a spy thriller that includes the use of a double agent, and the alleged forced repatriation to China of PRC nationals who are resident in the US.
Of the 13 people charged, 10 are said to be Chinese intelligence officers and Chinese government officials. All but two of the suspects remain at large.
According to the press conference given by US Attorney General Merrick Garland, two PRC intelligence officers have been charged with attempting to “obstruct, influence and impeded a criminal prosecution of a PRC telecommunications company.”
US Attorney General Merrick Garland did not name the Chinese telecoms firm involved.
But Reuters and most US media outlets, citing a person familiar with the matter, identified this PRC telecommunications company as Huawei Technologies Co Ltd.
The US complaint alleges that in 2019, the defendants directed an employee at a US government law enforcement agency to steal confidential information about the US criminal prosecution of the telecommunications company.
“The two PRC intelligence officers believed they are recruited the US employee as an asset,” said AG Garland. “But in fact, the individual they recruited was actually a double agent working on behalf of the FBI.
As the complaint alleges, the defendants paid a bribe to the double agent to obtain non-public information, including files from the US attorney’s office in the eastern district.
According to AG Garland, the defendants did so in the hope of obtaining the prosecution strategy memo, confidential information regarding witnesses, trial evidence and potential new charges to be brought against the company.
The double agent provided the defendants with documents that appeared to present some of the information they sought. In fact, according to AG Garland, the documents were prepared by the US government for the purpose of this investigation and did not reveal actual meetings, communications or strategies.
“This was an egregious attempt by PRC intelligence officers to shield a PRC based company from accountability and to undermine the integrity of our judicial system,” said US Attorney General Merrick Garland.
And the case did not end there, as Chinese intelligence officers also allegedly attempted to forcibly repatriate a US resident to China.
“Separately, in the eastern district of New York, the Justice Department charged seven individuals who are working on behalf of the PRC with engaging in a multi-year campaign of threats and harassment to force a US resident to return to China,” said AG Garland.
“Last Thursday we arrested two of those defendants,” said AG Garland. “As these two cases demonstrate, the government of China sought to interfere with the rights and freedoms of individuals in the United States, and to undermine our judicial system that protects those rights. They did not succeed.”
In a separate case in New Jersey, four people – including three alleged Chinese intelligence operatives – were charged with using a fake think tank to recruit current and former US officials.
According to AG Garland, the suspects hoped to procure technology and have it shipped to China.
In total the US Department on Justice on Monday announced it had arrested two, and charged 13 including members of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) security and intelligence apparatus and their agents, for alleged efforts to unlawfully exert influence in the United States for the benefit of the government of the PRC.
According to Reuters, a spokesperson for Huawei could not be reached for comment on Monday.
The Chinese embassy in the US also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Wanzhou eventually returned to China in September 2021 after reaching a deal with the US Justice Department.
In 2020, other charges were added to the case, including conspiring to steal trade secrets from six US technology companies and helping Iran track protesters during anti-government demonstrations in 2009.
Huawei has pleaded not guilty to the US charges.