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US claims Chinese spies made bribes to get information on Huawei investigation

The US Department of Justice has charged two people it says are Chinese state spies for bribing an FBI double agent in an attempt to get hold of information on the Huawei investigation.

The US Department of Justice says it has charged two Chinese intelligence officers over an alleged scheme to bribe a US government employee and steal documents related to the prosecution of a ‘PRC-Based Company’ – while the announcement opts to not mention it, the Wall Street Journal reports that ‘people familiar with the case said it concerns Huawei.’

Th DoJ claims that Guochun He and Zheng Wang paid $61,000 in Bitcoin to an FBI double agent in order to get hold of documents related to the investigation. They are subsequently charged with ‘attempting to obstruct a criminal prosecution of Company-1 in federal district court’ as well as money laundering.

The complaint says the defendants are Chinese intelligence officers ‘conducting foreign intelligence operations targeting the United States’, and in 2019 they directed FBI double agent (who they believed they had recruited) to steal the confidential information ‘in order to interfere with that prosecution.’

In 2021 the FBI agent was apparently asked to divulge which Huawei employees had been interviewed by the government, and wanted a description of the prosecutors’ evidence, witness list, and trial strategy.

“Today’s complaint underscores the unrelenting efforts of the PRC government to undermine the rule of law,” said United States Attorney Breon Peace.  “As alleged, the case involves an effort by PRC intelligence officers to obstruct an ongoing criminal prosecution by making bribes to obtain files from this Office and sharing them with a global telecommunications company that is a charged defendant in an ongoing prosecution.  We will always act decisively to counteract criminal acts that target our system of justice.”

Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew G. Olsen added: “Far more than an effort to collect information or intelligence, the actions of the PRC intelligence officers charged in this case must be called out for what they are:  an extraordinary intervention by agents of a foreign government to interfere with the integrity of the U.S. criminal justice system, compromise a U.S. government employee, and obstruct the enforcement of U.S. law to benefit a PRC-based commercial enterprise. The Department of Justice will not abide nation-state actors meddling in U.S. criminal process and investigations, and will not tolerate foreign interference with the fair administration of justice.”

If convicted, the report says Guochun He faces up to 60 years of imprisonment and Wang faces up to 20 years. However according the WsJ both are believed to live in China, so it seems unlikely that would actually happen if that’s the case. Regardless, this sort of thing is doubtless more coal on the fire for rising tensions between the US and China, with Huawei – and the allegations that it’s equipment could be used as a trojan horse for Chinese snooping into Western states – caught in the middle as a kind of proxy.

 

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