On October 24, the U.S. Justice Department unsealed charges in a trio of criminal cases against 13 Chinese nationals, including two suspected intelligence officers.
The two alleged agents were charged with “obstruction of justice in a scheme to bribe [a] U.S. government employee and steal documents related to the federal prosecution” of an unnamed Chinese telecommunications company.
Multiple news reports identified the company as Huawei Technologies, the global telecom equipment maker.
The other two cases were filed separately against seven Chinese nationals for actions as part of Operation Fox Hunt, a Chinese program to repatriate people Beijing claims are fugitives, and four others for actions to recruit agents “under the cover of a front academic organization.”
Ten of the 13 suspects were identified by the FBI as Chinese intelligence agents, according to FBI Director Christopher Wray.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin responded the next day:
“Some U.S. law enforcement officials, driven by a Cold War zero-sum mentality and ideological bias, have repeatedly brought unfounded accusations against China under false pretexts,” he said.
Alluding to the Huawei and repatriation cases, Wang said the United States has “sought to suppress Chinese companies … and obstruct and undermine China’s efforts to repatriate fugitives and recover illegal proceeds."
That characterization is misleading.
Although U.S. courts will ultimately determine guilt, charging documents provide a detailed account of the cloak-and-dagger activities of the two alleged Chinese intelligence officers.
Court papers say the two men — Guochun He and Zheng Wang — sought to access secret, sensitive details of U.S. criminal cases against the Chinese company. Huawei had been indicted in the Eastern District of New York and was fighting accusations of fraud, obstruction, racketeering and theft.
Beijing and Huawei have consistently pushed back against U.S. accusations of wrongdoing, including concerns that Huawei’s equipment could be used to spy on U.S. citizens or government agencies. Huawei has not commented on accusations in the latest spying indictment.
According to the Justice Department, since 2019 Wang and He had directed a U.S. law enforcement employee whom “they believed they had recruited” to steal “confidential information regarding witnesses, trial evidence and potential new charges to be brought” against Huawei “for the purpose of obstructing justice.”
He allegedly paid this U.S. contact $61,000 in bitcoin for the information, the complaint says. What the pair didn't know: Their U.S. informant was a double agent working for the FBI.
He contacted the agent in February 2019, several days after then-President Donald Trump’s administration unsealed indictments against Huawei and its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, alleging money laundering, wire and bank fraud for trading with Iran, and the theft of trade secrets from U.S. telecom carrier T-Mobile.
He directed the agent to find a public phone, and in a subsequent call, Wang spoke with the agent about getting inside information about the Chinese firm’s criminal prosecution.
The intelligence-gathering efforts allegedly continued after the announcement of a superseding indictment against Huawei on February 13, 2020, that expanded the U.S. case to include racketeering. (Polygraph.info has previously reported on the case against Meng and Huawei.)
He wrote to the double agent following the new indictment and asked, “Can you talk about this with your ex-college [sic] who work for department of justice,” according to the complaint. “Evidences, next measures, or communication ... anything about this are good …”
The complaint says efforts escalated in late summer of 2021:
“In or about September 2021, HE tasked [the double agent] with providing information about meetings that [the double agent] was purportedly having with members of the prosecution team at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for [Eastern District of New York] to strategize for the jury trial in the prosecution of [Huawei].
“In October 2021, in response to HE’s request for documents and records from the prosecution team, [the double agent] passed to HE a single page document that appeared to be classified as “SECRET” and that purported to discuss a potential plan to charge and arrest two current Company-1 principals residing in the PRC. [The double agent] falsely indicated to HE and WANG that he/she surreptitiously photographed the document during a meeting with federal prosecutors. The document, if authentic, could be used by [Huawei] to obstruct the ongoing criminal prosecution and government investigation.
“HE paid [the double agent] approximately $41,000 in Bitcoin for that single page. In December 2021, after the document was passed to HE, in discussions concerning the document, HE informed [the double agent] that Huawei ‘demanded to communicate with [the double agent] directly’ but that HE had ‘refused it’ because ‘it’s too dangerous.’”
He and Wang allegedly tried to obtain the government’s trial strategy memorandum and a recording of a meeting among U.S. prosecutors for an additional $50,000, the complaint says.
On or about October 18, 2022, He sent the double agent about $20,000 worth of bitcoin and within days, deleted all previous messages between the two, according to the complaint.
If convicted, He faces up to 60 years and Wang 20 years in a U.S. prison. Both are at large.
Polygraph.info has previously reported on China’s distorted portrayal of its Operation Fox Hunt program.