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Huawei investigation: Chinese officers charged in the United States


WASHINGTON-

Two suspected Chinese intelligence officers have been charged with trying to obstruct a US criminal investigation into Chinese tech giant Huawei by offering bribes to someone they believed could provide inside information, the Department of Justice announced on Monday.

The defendants are accused of paying tens of thousands of dollars in digital currency, along with cash and jewelry, to a US official they believed to have recruited as an asset. But the person was actually a double agent working for the FBI, the department said.

That lawsuit, along with two other cases involving Chinese agents, was highlighted Monday at a press conference attended by the heads of the FBI and Justice Department, a rare joint presence reflecting a concerted US show of force. against Chinese intelligence efforts. Washington has long accused Beijing of meddling in US political affairs and stealing secrets and intellectual property.

In addition to the two men on Monday, 11 other Chinese men have been charged with offenses over the past week, including harassment of individuals in the United States, which according to FBI Director Christopher Wray shows that “the China’s economic assaults and violations of their rights are part of the same thing.” problem.”

“They’re trying to silence anyone who retaliates against their theft – businesses, politicians, individuals – just as they try to silence anyone who retaliates against their other assaults,” he said.

In the Huawei case, Guochun He and Zheng Wang are accused of attempting to order a US official to provide confidential information about the Justice Department’s investigation, including witnesses, trial evidence and potential new charges.

The latest announcements came just days after Xi Jinping awarded himself a third term as leader of the Communist Party of China, although Wray dismissed the idea of ​​a possible timeline tie, noting “we are bringing cases when they are ready”.

“If the Chinese government, the Chinese Communist Party, continues to violate our laws, they will continue to meet with the FBI,” he said.

The Justice Department separately announced charges against four other Chinese nationals, accusing them of using the cover of a university institute to try to procure sensitive technology and equipment, as well as interfering with protests that “would have been embarrassing to the Chinese government.”

And he highlighted a case from last week in which two more people were arrested and five others charged with harassing a person living in the United States to return to China under what Beijing calls “Operation Fox Hunt”.

“Today’s cases clearly show that Chinese agents will not hesitate to break the law and violate international standards in the process,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco.

The case related to the Huawei investigation dates back to January 2019. The company, a senior executive and several subsidiaries had just been indicted in the United States for financial fraud, theft of trade secrets and violation of sanctions.

Wang and He, according to prosecutors, were eager for nonpublic information about the prosecution and the status of the investigation. They reached out to a contact they had known since 2017, but the person – who was not identified by name – started working as a double agent and engaged in a back-and-forth with the defendants supervised by the FBI.

Sometime last year, prosecutors say, the person provided defendants with a single-page document that appeared to be classified and contained information about an alleged Justice Department plan to indict and arrest Huawei executives who lived in China. The person said the document was secretly photographed during a meeting with federal prosecutors.

The document was prepared specifically for the purposes of the prosecution which was unsealed on Monday, and the information it contains was neither accurate nor a fair reflection of Justice Department plans, officials said.

The company is not named in the charging documents and prosecutors declined at Monday’s press conference to name it, although the references clearly indicate that it is Huawei.

Spokespersons for Huawei and the Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately return messages seeking comment. Huawei previously called the federal investigation a “political persecution, plain and simple.”

“Attacking Huawei will not help the United States stay ahead of the competition,” the company said in a 2020 statement.

In the “Operation Fox Hunt” case, prosecutors said Chinese agents tried to intimidate an unnamed person and his family into returning to China. Part of the plot, according to the United States, involved the person’s nephew traveling to the United States as part of a tour group to make threats such as “Coming back and surrendering is the only way out “.

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