Threat Management, Threat Management

Two Chinese nationals charged with attempted bribe of US government employee

FBI Director Christopher Wray
The Department of Justice charged two Chinese nationals with seeking to bribe a U.S. government employee into providing details of a case against a Chinese telecommunications firm. FBI Director Christopher Wray said the incident and other charges announced this week “lays bare the Chinese government’s flagrant violation of international laws as they work to project their authoritarian view around the world.” (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Department of Justice unveiled charges in three separate cases, accusing Chinese intelligence officers of alleged efforts to "unlawfully exert influence in the United States" for the People's Republic of China.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the charges of 13 individuals associated with the Chinese government during a press conference Monday.

"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.

In one of the cases, two Chinese intelligence officers were accused of having engaged in foreign intelligence operations targeting the U.S., starting in 2019, for the benefit of a global telecommunications company based in China.

The DoJ claims that two defendants, Guochun He and Zheng Wang, bribed a U.S. government employee, (who was working as a double agent on behalf of the FBI) to steal files and information from the Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York about the telecommunication company. He and Wang paid approximately $61,000 in Bitcoin in exchange, according to a criminal complaint.

The DoJ does not name the company involved, but the details of the criminal complaint against He and Wang line up with an Eastern District of New York prosecution of Huawei. The Chinese tech giant was previously charged by the US with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, money laundering, and steal trade secrets.

According to the complaint, In September 2021, He and Wang told the employee that they were particularly interested in which employees in the telecommunications company "had been interviewed by the government and in obtaining a description of the prosecutor's evidence, witness list and trial strategy." The employee gave them a fake single-page document classified as "SECRET" in October 2021. He paid $41,000 for the single page and told the employee that the document was "exactly what I am waiting for."

As recently as this month, He paid the employee with additional $20,000 in Bitcoin, claiming his organization "decided to give a good reward" to the employee for providing confidential information.

FBI Director Christopher Wray noted that 10 of the 13 charged individuals mentioned across the three cases were Chinese intelligence officers or government officials, and the activity “lays bare the Chinese government’s flagrant violation of international laws as they work to project their authoritarian view around the world.”

“Their attempted obstruction of an independent judicial process, to give underhanded help to one of their companies accused of breaking our intellectual property laws an deny justice to that company’s victims,” Wray said.

Those efforts include targeting “businesses of every size and in almost every sector, from agriculture to green tech to semiconductors, the Chinese American community, academia and state and local governments and our foreign partners around the world.

In a statement, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said the charges “further illustrate Huawei’s inextricable ties to the Chinese Communist Party and its brazen but unsurprising disregard for the rule of law.”

“The intelligence community has repeatedly warned about the economic and national security threats posed by Chinese telecommunications companies like Huawei, which are backed by the [Chinese Communist Party] and exploited in the interest of authoritarian goals and ambitions. I applaud the dedicated work of the Department of Justice and law enforcement officials, and I look forward to seeing any investigations against Huawei proceed unimpeded,” Warner said.

In another case, four Chinese nationals, including three PRC intelligence officers, were charged Monday in New Jersey with conspiring to act as illegal agents in the U.S. on behalf of the Chinese government between 2008 and 2018.

The third case involves seven Chinese nationals who attempted to threaten and harass a U.S. resident to return to China. The DoJ arrested two of the defendants.

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