Two alleged Chinese spies bribed a U.S. government official — who was actually an FBI double-agent — in order to derail an investigation into Huawei, the Department of Justice alleged on Monday.
“This was an egregious attempt by PRC intelligence officers to shield a PRC-based company from accountability and to undermine the integrity of our judicial system,” Attorney General Merrick Garland declared at a press conference.
Court papers identify defendants Dong He (also known as Guochun He and Jacky He) and Zheng “Zen” Wang as intelligence officers for China. Both remain at large, and they rank among the 13 people charged with what the Justice Department describes as expansive schemes of “malign” influence.
According to a 28-page affidavit supporting He and Wang’s charges, the men paid $61,000 in Bitcoin to recruit a U.S. government employee — whose identity is disguised in court papers as “GE-1” — as an asset to obtain confidential information. That employee was an FBI double-agent, prosecutors say.
“Since becoming a double agent, GE-1’s continued contact with HE and WANG occurred under the supervision of the FBI,” an FBI affidavit states. “Pursuant to directives from the FBI, GE-1 provided various kinds of information to HE and WANG at their request, including purportedly sensitive information about the U.S. government’s criminal case against Company-1,” an entity widely reported to be the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.
First indicted in 2019, Huawei stands accused of racketeering (RICO), conspiring to steal trade secrets, conspiring to commit wire fraud, conspiring to commit bank fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, conspiring to defraud the United States, conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions, money laundering and obstruction of justice. The case, and the massive superseding indictment that followed it, has been a persistent thorn on the side of Beijing.
Prosecutors say that the alleged spies’ gifts added up for the double-agent.
“As of October 2021, HE and WANG had provided GE-1 with payment of approximately $14,000, in addition to jewelry worth approximately $600, for purported sensitive U.S. government information,” the affidavit states.
As trial approached, prosecutors say, He and Wang expanded their largesse.
“Beginning in the summer of 2021, HE and WANG’s efforts to interfere with the pending criminal prosecution and ongoing investigation related to Company-1 escalated,” the affidavit states. “In or about September 2021, HE tasked GE-1 with providing information about meetings that GE-1 was purportedly having with members of the prosecution team at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for EDNY to strategize for the jury trial in the prosecution of Company-1.”
According to the FBI, the double-agent handed the men a document marked as “SECRET” that purported to discuss a potential plan to charge and arrest two of Huawei’s principals residing in China. The double-agent claimed to have surreptitiously photographed the single-page file during a meeting with federal prosecutors, and the men paid her $41,000 in Bitcoin for it, authorities say.
The Justice Department announced the case, in English and Chinese, with a show of force from their most senior leaders. Speaking at the press conference with Garland were Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew G. Olsen.
The officials framed the case as part of the Justice Department’s longstanding efforts to combat “malign” and criminal activities linked to the Chinese government, including China’s crackdown on dissidents abroad in an effort called “Operation Fox Hunt.”
Though most of the individuals charged on Monday remain at large, two people charged in connection with that international harassment campaign were arrested. Quanzhong An and Guangyang An stand accused of trying to harass and coerce a U.S. resident to return to China.
“As alleged, the defendants engaged in a unilateral and uncoordinated law enforcement action on U.S. soil on behalf of the government of the People’s Republic of China, in an effort to cause the forced repatriation of a U.S. resident to China,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York said in a statement. “The United States will firmly counter such outrageous violations of national sovereignty and prosecute individuals who act as illegal agents of foreign states.”
Both of those cases were filed in the Eastern District of New York.
Over in the District of New Jersey, four Chinese nationals, including three Ministry of State Security (MSS) intelligence officers, are accused of recruiting people to help them try to simmer planned protests along the 2008 Olympic Games torch route in the United States. Prosecutors say that the alleged conspirators said the protests would be “embarrassing” to China.
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