Recent conviction of Chinese spy in a US court could be game changer, say insiders

Chinese Ministry of State Security

THE RECENT CONVICTION OF a Chinese intelligence officer for espionage in a United States court could be a “seminal moment” for American counterintelligence, according to several former intelligence professionals. They spoke to The Daily Beast’s Shannon Vavra about the case of Yanjun Xu, who is also known as Qu Hui or Zhang Hui. As intelNews and others reported last month, Xu is a deputy division director in the Ministry of State Security (MSS) —China’s intelligence agency.

Xu was arrested by Belgian police in April 2018, while attempting to meet an employee of GE Aviation, a subsidiary of General Electric, whom he had allegedly tried to recruit at an academic conference in China in 2017. The Belgians extradited Xu to the United States, where he was indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiring to commit acts of economic espionage against GE Aviation. During the trial, which took place in Cincinnati, prosecutors successfully made the case that Xu’s espionage activities were part of a broader 10-year plan by the MSS to spy on aviation manufacturers around the world.

Xu’s extradition marked the first time that an employee of a Chinese intelligence agency was tried on American soil. His conviction could be a game changer, says to Bill Evanina, who was director of the United States National Counterintelligence and Security Center until earlier this year. Evanina told The Daily Beast that the case against Xu will almost certainly serve as a “legal template for future cases” by the United States government against Chinese espionage. Evanina’s view was echoed by Jim Olson, former Chief of Counterintelligence for the Central Intelligence Agency. He told The Daily Beast that Xu’s arrest, extradition and conviction “is a huge shakeup for the MSS” and its impact on how China conducts its espionage operations against the United States will be “tremendous”.

Meanwhile China has rejected all accusations against Xu. Liu Pengyu, spokesman for China’s embassy in the United States, told The Daily Beast that the charges against Xu were “pure fabrications”. He added that the Chinese state demands that Washington handles Xu’s case “according to the law and in a just manner”, so that this Chinese citizen’s “rights and interests” would be ensured.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 16 November 2021 | Permalink

Unusual trial of alleged Chinese state intelligence officer begins in the United States

General Electric

AN UNUSUAL TRIAL OF an alleged Chinese spy is taking place in the United States, which observers say marks the first time that an employee of a Chinese intelligence agency is being tried on American soil. The court case centers on Yanjun Xu, also known as Qu Hui or Zhang Hui. According to prosecutors, Xu is a deputy division director in the Ministry of State Security (MSS) —China’s intelligence agency.

Xu was arrested by Belgian police in April 2018 and was eventually extradited to the US. Following his extradition, he was indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiring to commit acts of economic espionage against GE Aviation, a subsidiary of General Electric, which is headquartered in the US state of Ohio. Throughout the trial, which began last week at a District Court in the city of Cincinnati, prosecutors have been making the case that Xu’s espionage activities were part of a broader plan by the MSS to spy on aviation manufacturers around the world. The alleged espionage campaign has been taking place since at least 2013, say the prosecutors.

According to the prosecutors, the purpose of the MSS’ espionage campaign is to reverse-engineer GE Aviation’s advanced gas turbine engine, which, according to one witness who testified at the trial, Beijing has been trying to steal for many years. Among other activities, Xu is accused of having tried to pay off employees of aviation contractors, in return for access to proprietary blueprints of engines and other components. In other cases, computer viruses were used in efforts to compromise secrets. In one alleged example, a project manager with French aviation manufacturer Safran testified this week that his laptop computer was infected with a malware during a 2014 business trip to China.

The trial is expected to last until the middle of November.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 27 October 2021 | Permalink

Italy arrests Russian ex-foreign ministry official for espionage following US request

Naples International AirportItaly has arrested a Russian business executive and former foreign ministry official who is wanted by the United States for carrying out espionage against an American aviation firm. Alexander Yuryevich Korshunov, 57, who is a former official in Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was reportedly arrested on August 30 at Naples International Airport in Italy. On Thursday, the US Department of State filed a criminal complaint against Korshunov, accusing him of trade secret theft. According to the complaint, Korshunov’s espionage benefited a Russian state-owned aviation company. He was allegedly assisted by 59-year-old Maurizio aPolo Bianchi, an Italian citizen, who remains at large.

The US government claims that the two men conspired to steal blueprints for the design of gearbox accessories used in jet engines. The company they allegedly stole the information from is GE Aviation, a company based in the US state of Ohio. Bianchi reportedly used to work for one of GE Aviation’s subsidiaries in Italy and dealt with clients from Russia and China, among other countries. But he eventually left the company and joined another firm that contracted with Aviadvigatel, a subsidiary of United Engine Corporation. The latter is a Russian-owned aerospace company that employed Korshunov. During his work for Aviadvigatel, Bianchi is accused of having employed a number of current and former employees of GE Aviation as consultants. But the work that Bianchi carried out for his new company compromised trade secrets belonging to GE Aviation, according to the US Department of Justice. Moreover, the Department claims that both Bianchi and Korshunov, who supervised Bianchi’s work on behalf of Aviadvigatel, were aware that they were exploiting trade secrets that did not belong to them.

There is no information on Bianchi’s whereabouts. If convicted, the two men face up to 10 years in prison each. On Thursday, the Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed the charges against Korshunov as biased and said they were likely motivated by “unfair competition” practices by American companies. The Italian government has issued no public comment about Korshunov’s arrest.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 06 August 2019 | Permalink

Dead body found on plane carrying millions in cash in Zimbabwe

HarareAn American-registered airplane carrying large quantities of cash on behalf of a South African bank was impounded by authorities in Zimbabwe after a dead body was found on board. Zimbabwean media said police was notified after human blood was seen dripping from the plane’s cargo area during an emergency refueling stop. Authorities said the plane belonged to Western Global Airlines, a Florida-based transportation company that specializes in chartering flights to Africa. Its crew includes at least two Americans, a Pakistani and a South African citizen.

According to officials in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, the cargo plane had been traveling from Germany to South Africa when it made an emergency request to land at the Harare International Airport. An earlier request by the crew to land in neighboring Mozambique had been turned down. But after refueling the plane, attendants at Harare airport noticed that there was blood dripping from the plane’s cargo area. When they opened the door, they discovered “a suspended body in the plane”, said The Herald, one of Zimbabwe’s largest newspapers.

It was later established that the plane was carrying millions of South African rand on behalf of the South African Reserve Bank (SARB), which is the central bank of South Africa. An official at the bank said on Monday that SARB was “aware of an aircraft carrying a SARB consignment that stopped in Harare and was detained”, but gave no further information. The Zimbabwe Civil Aviation Authority said the matter had been forwarded for investigation to police authorities. The ambassador of South Africa to Zimbabwe, Vusi Mavimbela said media reports about the incident were accurate, but refused to provide details, saying the matter was under investigation.

The last time authorities in Zimbabwe impounded a foreign-owned airplane was in 2004, when a Boeing 727 registered in South Africa was found to contain several tons of weapons and 64 troops. The troops, who were mercenaries from several countries, including South Africa, Britain and Armenia, were on their way to Equatorial Guinea to stage a military coup in return for a share in profits from the country’s lucrative oil sector.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 16 February 2016 | Permalink

Computer hacking reveals Italian spying on Russia, India

CNAIPIC emblem

CNAIPIC emblem

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Documents posted online by an anonymous hacker group point to extensive Italian espionage against Russian and Indian defense and energy deals. The hacked documents contain raw data and intelligence reports authored by officials in Italy’s National Anti-Crime Computer Center for Critical Infrastructure Protection (CNAIPIC), an electronic security outfit operating under the auspices of the Italian National Police. It appears that Italian National Police servers were recently hacked by a group of international hackers calling itself Anonymous Hackers for Antisec Operation. On July 26, the group published over eight gigabytes of hacked CNAIPIC documents on various subjects, ranging from reports on Egypt’s Ministry of Transportation to information about the Vietnam Oil and Gas Group (PetroVietnam). Among the documents are reports that seem to point to systematic intelligence-gathering operations by CNAIPIC against Russia’s government-owned energy and defense industries. Some of the information contained in the reports appears to have been stolen from the embassy of India in Moscow, probably through cyberespionage. The stolen information would suggest that CNAIPIC has had access since late 2009 to confidential correspondence between the Indian embassy and a number of Russian military aircraft industries, including Aviazapchast, Ilyushin Aircraft, and NPO Saturn. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #516

  • UK government will continue to spy on Muslims says official. Britain’s Home Secretary, Theresa May, says she does not see “anything wrong with identifying people who are vulnerable to being taken down a certain route”.
  • UK government outed IRA double agent. Senior Irish Provisional Army volunteer Denis Donaldson, who spied for the British government, was deliberately outed by the government to send a message to the IRA that he was expendable, and that it had another, more valuable informant within the IRA leadership ranks. The revelation is contained in a leaked US diplomatic document published by whistleblower website WikiLeaks. Donaldson was shot dead shortly after his role as an MI5 informant was revealed.
  • Legendary CIA airline now in danger of crashing. There was a time, not so long ago, that CIA-linked contractor Evergreen International Aviation was doing quite well for itself. Today, the venerable intelligence-helpers have fallen on hard times. The other day, it had to unload its 200 million square foot maintenance facility in southern Arizona in order to help pay off its debts.

News you may have missed #0146

  • RAND wants the US to abstain from cyberattacks. A new report by the US Pentagon’s research arm, RAND Corporation, suggests the US may be better off playing cyber-defense instead of resorting to cyberattacks. On offense, cyberwar might be better relegated to support roles, and then only “sparingly and precisely”, according to the report. The study comes as the US military fires up its new unified Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) program this month.
  • Turkey says it foiled al-Qaida plot against Israeli, US targets. Turkish security forces detained on Thursday 32 suspected members of al-Qaeda, believed to have been planning attacks on Israeli, US and NATO targets. The suspects, some of whom are said to have been trained in al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, were detained in simultaneous raids across eight provinces.
  • South Korea arrests alleged Swedish-handled spy. A former South Korean air force major general, identified only as Kim, was arrested last Friday on charges of leaking classified military information to Swedish defense and aviation company Saab, between August 2008 and May this year.

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Botched CIA mission in Siberia revealed

Ulan Ude

Ulan Ude

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Five American “tourists” temporarily detained in 2001 by Russian border agents were in fact CIA agents on a covert mission to Siberia, court documents have revealed. The five were among thirteen agents traveling to Siberia on a chartered CIA flight. They were detained in the far-eastern Russian city of Petropavlovsk by Russian authorities, because Langley had failed to secure visas for them in time for their departure. The Americans’ CIA cover was revealed last week during a court case involving alleged fraud by a US government contractor involved in the operation. The CIA group was apparently traveling to Ulan Ude, Siberia in order to purchase two Russian helicopters for use in CIA missions in Afghanistan. Read more of this post

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