US charges Chinese man with aviation 'espionage'

Published: October 11, 2018 13:03:23 | Updated: October 12, 2018 11:52:53

The US Department of Justice headquarters building is seen in Washington, US on July 13, 2018 — Reuters/File

The US justice department has announced charges of economic espionage against a suspected Chinese intelligence officer.

Officials say Yanjun Xu tried to steal trade secrets from US aviation and aerospace companies on behalf of China, according to a BBC report Thursday.

He was arrested in Belgium earlier this year and on Tuesday extradited to the US.

A senior justice department official said the case was "part of an overall economic policy of developing China at American expense".

"We cannot tolerate a nation's stealing our firepower and the fruits of our brainpower," Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers added.

Prosecutors say Mr Xu is a senior officer with China's ministry of state security - which is responsible for counter-intelligence, foreign intelligence, and political security.

He was detained in Belgium on April 1 at the request of the US. He was later indicted by an Ohio grand jury on four charges of conspiring to commit economic espionage and attempting to steal trade secrets.

The indictment was unsealed on Wednesday following the suspect's extradition.

Prosecutors allege that from 2013 Mr Xu targeted leading aviation companies as well as industry experts to obtain "highly sensitive" technical information.

They say he would invite employees to travel to China for an "exchange of ideas" or under the guise of delivering university presentations.

Aircraft Ohio-based engine giant GE Aviation was identified as one of the targets of the alleged operation.

Conspiracy and attempt to commit economic espionage carries a maximum US prison sentence of 15 years, and conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets can carry a 10-year term.

The charges come at a time of raised tension between the US and China.

The two countries have become embroiled in an escalating trade war and President Trump has accused them of trying to meddle in the upcoming mid-term elections.

Share if you like