Chinese Spy Gets 20 Years for Theft of Military Trade Secrets
Chinese intelligence officer Yanjun Xu was sentenced to 20 years in prison Wednesday for economic espionage and attempted theft of trade secrets.
“As proven at trial, the defendant, a Chinese government intelligence officer, used a range of techniques to attempt to steal technology and proprietary information from companies based in both the US and abroad,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Yanjun, age 42, is the first Chinese intelligence officer to be extradited to the US to stand trial for criminal charges. According to court documents, he began infiltrating American and French aviation companies as early as 2013.
His primary target was GE Aviation, a subsidiary of General Electric that produces specialized turbine engines for military aircraft including the UH-60 Blackhawk, F-15 Eagle, F/A-18 Super Hornet, CH-47 Chinook helicopter, and C-5 Galaxy strategic transport. The company, which will be spun off and rebranded as GE Aerospace in January, recently developed a composite aircraft engine fan module that no other company has been able to duplicate.
Using false names and companies, Yanjun tricked GE employees into traveling to China to give demonstrations about GE’s technology. The presentations were followed by luxurious dinners, during which members of the Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS) hacked into any computers brought along by the GE employees.
Yanjun was finally captured in 2018 when he traveled to Belgium to meet with a GE employee who had been working with the FBI. Yanjun was expecting to obtain “system specification, design process” information regarding the engine fan. With help from the Belgian Federal Police, he was arrested and extradited to the United States to stand trial. He was convicted on November 5th, 2021 by a federal jury in Cincinnati, Ohio.
“This case sends a clear message: we will hold accountable anyone attempting to steal American trade secrets,” said US Attorney Kenneth L. Parker for the Southern District of Ohio. “Xu conspired to steal American science and technology. Thanks to the diligent work of the FBI, GE Aviation, and our trial team, he’ll spend decades in federal prison.”
“This case is just the latest example of the Chinese government’s continued attacks on American economic security,” adds FBI Director Christopher Wray. “The Chinese government tasked an officer of its spy service to steal US trade secrets so it could advance its own commercial and military aviation efforts…This brazen action shows that the Chinese government will stop at nothing to put our companies out of business to the detriment of US workers.”
In September of 2022, a federal jury in Chicago convicted Chinese national Ji Chaoqun for working on behalf of the MSS. With Yanjun as his “handler,” Ji joined the US Military in order to gain top-secret security clearance. He was arrested on an aircraft carrier after unwittingly talking to an FBI agent about his work for the MSS. Ji faces up to 10 years in prison but his sentence has yet to be decided.
Author’s Note: China has flooded the US with spies and we can expect this sort of thing to continue. As I wrote last year, hundreds of American scientists have been compromised by Beijing (click here to read more).
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