WASHINGTON (AP) — Two suspected Chinese intelligence officers have been accused of trying to obstruct a US criminal investigation into Chinese tech giant Huawei by offering bribes to someone they believed might provide inside information, the Justice Department said.
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 they had recruited as an asset. But the person was a double agent working for the FBI, the department said.
That prosecution, along with two other cases involving Chinese agents, was highlighted Monday at a news conference attended by heads of the FBI and Justice Department, a rare joint presence reflecting a concerted American 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 Monday’s two men, 11 other Chinese nationals have been charged over the past week with crimes including harassment of people in the US, which FBI Director Christopher Wray said show China’s “economic attacks and their rights abuses are part of the same problem.” “
“They try to silence anyone who resists their theft — corporations, politicians, individuals — just as they try to silence anyone who resists their other aggressions,” he said.
The latest announcements came just days after Xi Jinping gave himself a third term as Chinese Communist Party leader, though Wray dismissed the idea of a possible temporal connection, noting, “We bring cases when they’re ready.”
“If the Chinese government, the Chinese Communist Party, continues to violate our laws, they will continue to meet with the FBI,” he said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin did not go into the details of the Huawei case at a briefing on Tuesday, but said: “We are always opposed to US over-extending the concept of national security and abusing state power to protect Chinese people.” oppress companies unjustly.”
More generally, the Chinese government always asks its citizens to obey the laws of the countries they live in, but he also accused the US government of fabricating lies to slander China.
In the Huawei case, Guochun He and Zheng Wang are accused of trying to order a US official to provide confidential information about the Justice Department’s investigation, including witnesses, trial evidence and possible new indictments.
The Justice Ministry separately announced charges against four other Chinese nationals, accusing them of attempting to obtain sensitive technology and equipment under the guise of an academic institute, as well as disrupting protests that “would have been embarrassing to the Chinese government.”
And it highlighted a case last week in which two other people were arrested and five others accused of harassing someone living in the US to take him to China as part of what Beijing is dubbing as Operation Fox Hunt returns.
“Today’s cases make it clear that Chinese agents will not hesitate to break the law and violate international norms in the process,” Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco said.
The case related to the Huawei investigation dates back to January 2019. The company, a top executive and several subsidiaries had just been indicted on US charges of financial fraud, trade secret theft and sanctions violations.
According to prosecutors, Wang and He wanted non-public information about the charges and the status of the investigation. They reached out to a contact they’ve known since 2017, but the person, who has not been identified by name, began working as a double agent and engaged in back-and-forth operations with the suspects, which was monitored by the FBI.
Last year, prosecutors said, the person gave defendants a one-page document that appeared to be classified and contained information about an alleged plan by the Justice Department to indict and arrest Huawei executives living 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 indictment, which was unsealed Monday, and the information it contains is not accurate nor does it accurately reflect the Justice Department’s plans, officials said.
The company is not named in the indictment, and prosecutors declined to name it at Monday’s press conference, although references make it clear it is Huawei.
Spokespersons for Huawei and the Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond for comment. Huawei has previously described the federal investigation as “political persecution, pure and simple.”
“An attack on Huawei will not help the US stay ahead of the competition,” the company said in a statement released in 2020.
In the case related to Operation Fox Hunt, prosecutors said Chinese agents tried to intimidate an unnamed person and her family into returning to China. Part of the conspiracy, the US claims, was to have the person’s nephew travel to the US as part of a tour group to make threats, including: “Coming back and turning yourself in is the only way out.”