A Chinese intelligence official has been brought to the U.S. where he will face charges of economic espionage, according to a Department of Justice announcement. This marks the first time that an operative of the Chinese Ministry of State Security has been brought to the United States to face charges, CNN informs.
The indictment says that the agent, Yanjun Xu, is charged with conspiring and attempting to commit economic espionage and theft of trade secrets. He has also been accused of attempting to learn trade secrets by luring aviation employees to reveal them to him for the purposes of the Chinese government.
“This unprecedented extradition of a Chinese intelligence officer exposes the Chinese government’s direct oversight of economic espionage against the United States,” said Bill Priestap, assistant director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division.
The DOJ complaint further says Xu was one of several Ministry of State Security officials who, after allegedly identifying aviation industry experts at several companies, invited them to China under the guise of speaking at universities for an idea exchange.
However, CNN points out that these discussions often included highly technical discussions about a company’s signature material design and manufacturing technology, which only benefited the Chinese government.
“Effectively Xu and his (Chinese Ministry of State Security) colleagues sought to groom experts to hand over trade secrets,” U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Ben Glassman said. “China has made clear that it has a program where it is seeking to acquire leading technological information in this industry and several others.”
He further noted that Chinese officials’ efforts to acquire companies’ intellectual property are usually carried out through insider recruitment and online hacking. Glassman warned companies to be aware of such attempts and encouraged them to work “together with federal law enforcement authorities” to stop such thefts and bring foreign actors to trial for their actions.
Xu, who was arrested in April and extradited to the U.S. on Tuesday, appeared in federal court in Cincinnati on Wednesday and faces up to 25 years in prison.