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US officials reveal charges against Chinese spy who was captured in Belgium

U.S. federal agents managed to capture a Chinese spy after luring him to Belgium. Although he was arrested on April 1, the charges against Xu were just unsealed Wednesday. (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

U.S. federal agents managed to apprehend a Chinese spy in Belgium and will transport him to the United States.

Yanjun Xu (also known as Qu Hui or Zhang Hui) is a deputy division director in a regional office of China’s Ministry of State Security. He reportedly tried to steal trade secrets from GE Aviation. The U.S. and China do not have an extradition treaty, which is why U.S. agents lured Xu to Belgium before apprehending him. Although the charges against Xu were just unsealed Wednesday, he was arrested on April 1.

Xu was indicted on charges of “conspiring and attempting to commit economic espionage and steal trade secrets from multiple U.S. aviation and aerospace companies,” according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice. Prosecutors will be able try him in federal court in Cincinnati, where he made an initial appearance on Wednesday.

“This indictment alleges that a Chinese intelligence officer sought to steal trade secrets and other sensitive information from an American company that leads the way in aerospace,” Assistant Attorney General John Demers said in the release. “This case is not an isolated incident.  It is part of an overall economic policy of developing China at American expense.  We cannot tolerate a nation’s stealing our firepower and the fruits of our brainpower.  We will not tolerate a nation that reaps what it does not sow.”

According to the text of the indictment included in the news release:

Beginning in at least December 2013 and continuing until his arrest, Xu targeted certain companies inside and outside the United States that are recognized as leaders in the aviation field. This included GE Aviation. He identified experts who worked for these companies and recruited them to travel to China, often initially under the guise of asking them to deliver a university presentation. Xu and others paid the experts’ travel costs and provided stipends.

Xu could face a maximum sentence of 15 years for conspiracy and attempt to commit economic espionage, and an additional maximum sentence of 10 years for conspiracy and attempt to commit theft of trade secrets. There could also be financial penalties.

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