Washington, Oct 11 (IANS) The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced that a Chinese intelligence officer will be brought to Washington to face economic espionage charges, the first time that such an extradition has taken place.
Yanjun Xu faces four charges of conspiring and attempting to commit economic espionage and theft of trade secrets, according to the indictment, reports CNN.
Xu was arrested in Belgium in April and was extradited to the US on Tuesday after losing his appeal. He faces up to 25 years’ imprisonment.
DOJ officials said the indictment marks the first time a Chinese Ministry of State Security operative has been arrested and brought to the US to face charges.
He has been charged with working to get aviation employees to inadvertently reveal trade secrets to the Chinese government.
“This unprecedented extradition of a Chinese intelligence officer exposes the Chinese government’s direct oversight of economic espionage against the US,” Bill Priestap, Assistant Director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, in a statement on Wednesday.
Xu was one of several Ministry of State Security officials who, starting in 2013, allegedly identified aviation industry experts at at least three companies, including Cincinnati-based GE Aviation, and invited them to China under the guise of speaking at universities for an idea exchange, according to the Justice Department complaint.
“Effectively Xu and his (Chinese Ministry of State Security) colleagues sought to groom experts to hand over trade secrets,” Ben Glassman, the US attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, told the media on Wednesday.
“China has made clear that it has a program where it is seeking to acquire leading technological information in this industry and several others.”
Glassman stressed that while it was apparent that Chinese officials were using insider recruitment as well as online hacking to further their interests, perpetrators could be brought to justice when private companies and the federal government worked together, CNN reported.
Xu made his initial appearance Wednesday afternoon in federal court in Cincinnati, Glassman added.