Top U.S. law enforcement authorities revealed three newly unsealed cases Monday involving Chinese intelligence agents they say engaged in “malign influence efforts” targeting the United States. One allegedly involving a failed attempt to bribe a U.S official to give up confidential information related to Huawei, a global telecommunications company based in China.
A criminal complaint unsealed on Monday accuse two Chinese intelligence officers of attempting to bribe someone they believed to be a U.S law enforcement official with $61,000 worth of bitcoin to provide confidential information about a U.S. criminal case against Huawei. It turns out that law enforcement official was actually a double agent working for the FBI. Though the complaint does not specifically name Huawei, sources familiarly with the indictment speaking with ABC News and Bloomberg reportedly confirmed the company’s name.
As a reminder, The Department of Justice brought criminal charges against Huawei back in 2019, accusing the company and its associates of commiting nearly two dozen crimes including money laundering and conspiracy to commit bank fraud.
“This was an egregious attempt by PRC intelligence officers to shield a PRC-based company from accountability, and to undermine the integrity of our judicial system,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said during a press conference on Monday.
The two defendants charged, Guochun He and Zheng Wang reportedly attempted to acquire information related to witness, trial evidence, and potentially new charges levied against Huawei. The two Chinese agents allegedly paid the FBI double agent $41,000 for a single page they believed was classified as “SECRET.” In reality, those documents were prepared by the U.S. government for the investigation. He and Wang were both charged with attempting to obstruct a criminal prosecution. He was also charged with money laundering related to his bitcoin bribe.
Huawei did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.
U.S. law enforcement officials went on to reveal two additional criminal cases allegedly involving Chinese intelligence officials.
The first, filed in New Jersey, charged three Chinese intelligence agents in the United States for allegedly acting as illegal agents on behalf of a foreign government. Those individuals allegedly used the cover of a purported Chinese academic institute to “target, co-opt, and direct individuals in the United States to further the PRC’s intelligence mission,” Garland said on Monday. Garland claims those alleged agents tried to procure technology from the U.S. and ship it to China.
The other case, filed in the Eastern District of New York, charged seven individuals allegedly working on behalf of the Chinese government who allegedly spent years threatening and harassing a U.S. resident and alleged fugitive with the aim of convincing them to return to China.
In that campaign, called “Operation Foxhunt” the agents working on behalf of the Chinese government allegedly used intimidation tactics to force the U.S. resident to return to China. Garland, during the press conference claimed the agents showed up at the victim’s son’s New York home, filed “frivolous lawsuits,” and said it would be, “endless misery” for the victim and his son to defend themselves. Garland claims they made clear their harassment would not stop until the victim returned to China.
“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,” Garland said.
FBI Director Christopher Wray commented specifically on the case reportedly involving Huawei during the press conference.
“We see a coordinated effort across the Chinese government to lie, cheat, and steal their way to unfairly dominate entire technology sectors, putting competing U.S. companies out of business,” Wray said. The FBI director went on to say that though the three cases outlined on Monday may appear unrelated, he believed each case “laid bare the Chinese government’s flagrant violation of international laws,” including within U.S. borders.