Chinese Spy Faces Decades in Jail After Conviction

A Chinese intelligence officer has been convicted of cyber-espionage by a US federal jury, in the first ever case of its kind.

Xu Janun, deputy division director of the Sixth Bureau of the Jiangsu Province Ministry of State Security, was found guilty of conspiring to and attempting to commit economic espionage and theft of trade secrets, according to the Department of Justice (DoJ).

From at least 2013, Xu is said to have targeted experts working for leading aviation companies in the US and elsewhere, including GE Aviation. He persuaded them to travel to China, often under the guise of giving a presentation at a local university. They would be paid stipends and travel costs and encouraged to share sensitive information including blueprints.

Xu, who used multiple aliases such as Qu Hui and Zhang Hui, eventually travelled to Belgium in 2018 to meet a target from GE Aviation who was being groomed to share trade secrets.

However, unknown to Xu, the employee and his organization were already working with the FBI and he was arrested there, before being extradited to the US a year later.

He is convicted of two counts of conspiring and attempting to commit economic espionage, which carry a maximum sentence of 15 years per count and a fine of up to $5m. Xu was also convicted of conspiracy to commit trade secret theft and two counts of attempted theft of trade secrets, which could land him with a maximum of 10 years in prison for each count and a $250,000 fine.

“This conviction of a card-carrying intelligence officer for economic espionage underscores that trade secret theft is integral to the PRC government’s plans to modernize its industries,” said assistant attorney general Matthew Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

“This conviction also serves notice that the United States will not sit by as China, or any other nation state, attempts to steal instead of researching and developing key technology. Instead, and with the support of our allies, we will continue to investigate, prosecute, and hold accountable those who try to take the fruits of American ingenuity illegally.”

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