DOJ outlines charges against 13 Chinese nationals accused in US influence campaigns
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DOJ outlines charges against 13 Chinese nationals accused in US influence campaigns

WASHINGTON – Justice Department officials unsealed charges Monday against 13 Chinese operations involved in three separate influence campaignsincluding two intelligence officers accused in a brazen attempt to obstruct a federal criminal investigation into the Chinese-based telecommunications company Huawei.

The obstruction case, federal authorities said, represented a stunning attempted intervention in the US criminal justice system in which the suspects, Dong He, also known as Guochun He, and Zheng Wang, also known as Zen Wang, allegedly led an effort to steal files and other information from the US Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, New York, related to the ongoing federal criminal investigation and prosecution of Huawei.

The company’s identity was not included in court documents, but a person familiar the matter confirmed that it was Huawei.

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The suspects, who remain at large, allegedly paid a $41,000 Bitcoin bribe to a US government employee, who was actually working as a double-agent for the FBI.

“The defendants believed they had recruited the US government employee as an asset,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said. “But in fact, the individual they recruited was actually a double agent, working on behalf of the FBI.”

The two other cases involved efforts to force the repatriation of a Chinese national living in the United States, and a long-running Chinese intelligence operation to recruit US residents to act as agents for China.

Attorney General Merrick Garland, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco hold a press conference at the US Department of Justice on Monday in Washington, DC.  The Justice Department announced it has charged 13 individuals, including members of the Chinese intelligence and their agents, for alleged efforts to unlawfully exert influence in the United States for the benefit of the government of China.

Attorney General Merrick Garland, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco hold a press conference at the US Department of Justice on Monday in Washington, DC. The Justice Department announced it has charged 13 individuals, including members of the Chinese intelligence and their agents, for alleged efforts to unlawfully exert influence in the United States for the benefit of the government of China.

“Each of these cases lays bare the Chinese government’s flagrant violation of international laws, as they work to project their authoritarian view around the world,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said. “They try to silence anyone who fights back against their theft – companies, politicians, individuals. Just as they try to silence anyone who fights back against their other aggressions.”

Wray referred to the obstruction case as “yet another example… to give underhanded help to one of their companies accused of breaking our intellectual property laws – and deny justice to that company’s victims.”

In the alleged repatriation effort, an eight count indictment unsealed in Brooklyn accused seven suspects, two of whom were arrested by federal authorities Oct. 20 in New York, of conducting surveillance of a US resident while engaging in a campaign of harassment to force their target to return to the PRC as part of an international extralegal repatriation effort known as “Operation Fox Hunt.”

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The lead defendant, Quanzhong An, the majority owner of a hotel in Queens, allegedly acted at the direction of China’s Provincial Commission for Discipline Inspection, federal authorities said.

In New Jersey, four Chinese nationals, including three Ministry of State Security intelligence officers were accused in a wide-ranging and systematic effort to target and recruit individuals to act on behalf of China in the United States from 2008 to 2018.

The group asked college professors, former law enforcement workers and homeland security officials for information, equipment and assistance to the Chinese government in ways that would further China’s intelligence objectives, according to the government. In exchange, the defendants allegedly offered paid trips to China, federal officials said.

“As these cases demonstrate, the government of China sought to interfere with the rights and freedoms of individuals in the United States and to undermine our judicial system that protects those rights. They did not succeed,” Garland said. “The Justice Department will not tolerate attempts by any foreign power to undermine the rule of law upon which our democracy is based.”

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In the obstruction case, the two accused Chinese operatives allegedly made contact with the FBI double-agent in September 2021, seeking information about evidence gathered in the Brooklyn federal inquiry of the Chinese telecommunications company.

“The defendants said they were interested in knowing which (company) employees had been interviewed by the government and in obtaining a description of the prosecutors’ evidence, witness list and trial strategy,” according to court documents.

Eastern District of New York US Attorney Breon Peace speaks during a press conference in New York City on October 18, 2022. - French cement giant Lafarge SA will pay a $778 million fine after pleading guilty to providing material support to Islamic State and other terror groups during the Syrian civil war, the US Justice Department announced.

Eastern District of New York US Attorney Breon Peace speaks during a press conference in New York City on October 18, 2022. – French cement giant Lafarge SA will pay a $778 million fine after pleading guilty to providing material support to Islamic State and other terror groups during the Syrian civil war, the US Justice Department announced.

The following month, the agent allegedly sent the suspects what purported to be a classified strategy memorandum related to the company’s case. The document had been prepared to advance the investigation and did not include the government’s actual strategy in the case.

“The double agent provided the defendants with documents that appeared to present some of the information they sought,” Garland said. “In fact, the documents were prepared by the United States government for the purpose of this investigation and did not reveal actual meetings, communications, or strategies. 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.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Justice Department announces charges against 13 Chinese nationals

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