The Justice Department announced charges Monday against a total of 13 Chinese nationals for offenses including trying to steal U.S. law enforcement secrets.
Among those charged were two alleged spies who sought to obstruct the U.S. prosecution of Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies.
“As these cases demonstrate, the government of China sought to interfere with the rights and freedoms of individuals in the United States and to undermine our judiciary system that protects those rights. They did not succeed,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said.
Prosecutors said the two alleged Chinese spies attempted to undermine the Huawei investigation by trying to bribe a U.S. law enforcement agent into stealing confidential information about the case.
Although the Justice Department didn’t specifically identify Huawei as the telecom company, details in the 29-page criminal complaint closely match the case filed against Huawei. In 2019, U.S. prosecutors indicted Huawei, alleging it violated U.S. sanctions on Iran and conspiring to obstruct the investigation.
Gouchon He and Zheng Wang, the two accused spies, are alleged to have recruited the law enforcement official in 2017, believing they had secured a Chinese asset. However, the official was working as a “double agent,” under FBI supervision to help U.S. prosecutors build a case against the two defendants.
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They pressed the official to get information about witnesses and trial evidence, including stealing files from the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn. They also wanted to know about potential new charges that could be filed against Huawei, according to the criminal complaint.
The accused spies gave the official thousands of dollars and jewelry, prosecutors said.
In October 2021, according to the indictment, the undercover agent earned $41,000 just for passing along a single-page document marked as “secret” that detailed plans to arrest two Huawei principals living in China.
Both men sought information about the Chinese firm after charges were filed in 2019 “in an effort to interfere with the prosecution and the ongoing investigation,” prosecutors wrote. Communications between the Chinese intelligence officers and the double agent lasted through October 20, 2022, according to the criminal complaint.
In a February 2019 phone call with the double agent, Mr. Wang “expressed interest” in obtaining non-public information about the government investigation into the company. A few months later, the double agent asked one of the defendants what information he wanted about the investigation, according to court documents.
The two defendants allegedly responded that they wanted information about “the trade talk, attitude, analysis, potential measures, targets offers … are helpful,” adding “specific cases of sanction to aim China enterprise area also good.”
The two remain at large. Mr. He also was charged with money laundering based on the bribes paid to the double agent.
In another of the cases, federal prosecutors in New Jersey charged four individuals, including three Chinese intelligence officers, with unsuccessfully trying to recruit a federal law enforcement officer and state homeland security official to act as an agent of China.
From 2008 through 2018, Wang Lin and three defendants allegedly used their affiliation with a Chinese academic institution to identify and target potential U.S. spies. They sought to pressure the individual to stop a planned protest against China in the U.S. and other “clandestine activities,” according to court documents, according to prosecutors.
Another case was filed against seven individuals allegedly working on behalf of Beijing over several years to harass a U.S. resident and force them to return to China.
Mr. Garland said two of the seven defendants were arrested last week, but the other five remain at large.
“Huawei isn’t a private company — Huawei is a key piece of the Chinese Communist Party’s techno-authoritarianism,” Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska Republican and a member of the Intelligence Committee said in a statement. “The United States cannot ignore the threat the CCP poses to human dignity around the world. We need far more American intelligence and law enforcement focus on the CCP’s strategy to use front organizations and fake ‘private sector’ companies to try to bribe, compromise, and silence Americans.”