After being found guilty of attempting to steal trade secrets relating to composite materials from aircraft engine provider GE Aviation, a Chinese individual was given a 20-year prison sentence in the US.
The extradition of a Chinese government intelligence officer to the United States to face charges in this case is a first.
In a statement issued on November 16, 2022, the US Department of Justice claimed that Yanjun Xu, the deputy division head at the Chinese Ministry of State Security, had targeted different US aerospace businesses and attempted to steal data, including US military and trade secret information.
On November 5, 2021, a jury in Cincinnati found the Chinese government intelligence officer guilty of “conspiracy to commit economic espionage, conspiracy to commit trade secret theft, attempted economic espionage, and attempted trade secret theft,” according to the Department of Justice. The court papers state that Xu began unlawfully gathering data at least as early as December 2013.
In order to help China, Xu tried to steal GE Aviation’s composite aircraft engine fan module’s technology in 2017.
According to the inquiry, a Cincinnati-based employee of GE Aviation received a request to present a report at a Chinese university. Two months later, the employee made a presentation at the university in China and met Xu there. The employee’s travel costs and honorarium were covered by Xu and others.
The statement noted that in January 2018, Xu asked the employee to provide “systemf specification, design process” data. Working with GE Aviation and the FBI, the employee emailed manufacturer material that had a label warning against the disclosure of proprietary information.
During one of the employee’s business trips, “Xu began discussing with the employee the possibility of meeting in Europe,” according to the investigation. “Xu also requested the employee to send a copy of the file directory for his company-issued computer.”
On April 1, 2018, Xu left for Belgium with money and images of the worker. The Chinese national was detained just before he planned to meet with the employee.
With “valuable assistance provided by the government of Belgium, as well as the Belgian Federal Police,” the Office of International Affairs of the Department of Justice was able to secure Xu’s extradition to the United States.
“This case is just the latest example of the Chinese government’s continued attacks on American economic security – and, by extension, our national security.”FBI Director Christopher Wray was quoted assaying,
To enhance its own commercial and military aviation endeavours at the expense of an American corporation, the Chinese government assigned an officer of its spy service to steal American trade secrets, the author concluded. This blatant conduct demonstrates that the Chinese government would do whatever it takes to destroy our enterprises and harm American workers.
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