Chinese spy guilty of attempting to steal pioneering engine design from GE Aviation

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CINCINNATI (WXIX) – A federal jury convicted a Chinese intelligence officer on Friday of attempting to steal advanced proprietary technology from GE Aviation.

Yanjun Xu is the very first Chinese intelligence agent to be extradited to the United States to face charges. His trial began on October 19 in Cincinnati before US District Judge Timothy Black.

GE Aviation is headquartered in Evendale, Ohio.

The case underscores the threat of the People’s Republic of China’s Cold War strategies to modernize its industries through the theft of trade secrets, according to Deputy Attorney General of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division, Matthew Olsen.

“But this belief also means that the United States will not sit idly by while China, or any other nation-state, tries to fly instead of researching and developing key technologies,” Olsen said. “Instead, and with the support of our allies, we will continue to investigate, prosecute and hold accountable those who attempt to illegally take the fruits of American ingenuity.”

FBI Deputy Director of Counterintelligence Alan Kohler called Xu’s actions “state-sponsored PRC economic espionage designed to steal American technology and put Americans out of work.”

Kohler said the deal should allay doubts about the PRC’s “real goals” and serve as a “wake-up call” that they “are stealing American technology for the benefit of their economy and their military.”

Olsen described Xu as an “intelligence officer with a card for economic espionage.” In fact, he was deputy division director at China’s Ministry of State Security, the Chinese intelligence agency, which used what Patel described as “classic espionage techniques” to target US companies at home. cutting edge of aeronautical research and development.

Starting in 2013, Patel says, Xu recruited employees from these companies to travel to China, often under the pretext of giving a presentation at a university. Employees received allowances and their travel expenses were covered.

Among Xu’s efforts was the attempted theft of technology related to GE Aviation’s proprietary composite aircraft engine fan, which Patel says no other company in the world has been able to replicate.

A GE Aviation employee was asked to report at a Chinese university in March 2017, according to Patel. The employee went to China in May of the same year to make a presentation and was introduced to Xu.

In January 2018, Xu asked the employee for information about the “system specifications, the design process,” Patel said.

The employee emailed a two-page document from GE Aviation containing a label warning against disclosing proprietary information. At the time, the employee and GE Aviation were working with the FBI.

A month later, Xu spoke with the employee about a possible meeting in Europe and asked him to send a copy of his computer’s file directory provided by GE Aviation, Patel says.

Xu flew to Belgium on April 1, 2018 to meet with the employee and was arrested.

The international affairs office of the DOJ Criminal Division successfully extradited Xu to the United States with the help of the Belgian government and the Belgian Federal Police.

Patel announced Friday evening Xu’s conviction for two counts of conspiracy and attempted economic espionage, two counts of attempted theft of trade secrets and one count of conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets.

“The jury, by its guilty verdict here today, held Xu responsible for his classic espionage techniques,” Patel said. “Xu conspired to commit economic espionage on behalf of the Chinese government, and he attempted to steal valuable innovation and trade secrets from major US aircraft technology companies. This office will continue to seek to protect American innovation and hold accountable those who attempt to steal our nation’s science and technology, regardless of status or affiliation, whether civilian, military, or spy. .

Economic espionage carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $ 5 million.

The theft of trade secrets carries a potential maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

A federal district court judge will determine Xu’s sentence after reviewing US sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.

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