(CN) – The attorney for a Chinese woman convicted of trying to send a $50 million missile-firing drone and jet fighter engines to China, asked the 11th Circuit on Friday to overturn her conviction claiming that there is no substantial evidence to incriminate her.
Wenxia Man, a Chinese immigrant who settled in California, was sentenced in 2016 to more than four years in prison after being found guilty of conspiracy and of engaging in illegal brokering activities.
The U.S. requires a license for the exportation of arms, munitions, and other implements of war and defense to foreign countries. In 1989, the U.S. entered an embargo against China that prohibits the export of any defense article and weapons to that nation.
According to court documents, Man acted as a broker to negotiate and arrange the sale of defense articles and technical data from March 2011 until about June 2013 without obtaining a license or approval from the U.S. Department of State.
Man, a San Diego resident, purportedly worked with Chinese national Xinsheng Zhang, who she referred to as a “technology spy” and was connected to the Chinese military to copy items obtained from other countries.
The indictment said that Man and Zhang solicited price quotations for jet fighter engines, drones and technical data for each of the defense articles from persons that they believed were vendors of military equipment in the United States.
Man and Zhang discussed with these vendors that the military equipment would be shipped through third countries in order to avoid the arms embargo against China, the indictment says.
On Friday, attorney Kevin Schreiner asked the three-judge panel to revoke the conviction because there is “insufficient evidence” that indicates that his client committed a violation of the Arms Export Control Act.
He claimed that Man had no criminal background, and that there was no indication that she was involved in any illegal activity
“The government did not show sufficient evidence of conspiracy,” Schreiner said.
U.S. Attorney Ben Greenberg, who appeared on behalf of the United States, said that there was a clear conspiracy between Man and Zhang.
Greenberg argued that the many emails and phone calls that Man had with an undercover agent from the Department of Homeland Security, who was posing as a U.S. arms supplier, clearly show that she was trying to import weapons to China.
“The fact that they kept changing the agreement doesn’t change the fact that it was a conspiracy,” Greenberg said.
Schreiner countered by saying that Man and Zhang agreed to negotiate an agreement that never became effective.
“Zhang followed a typical pattern where he would inquire about jet engines and weapons, but there was never an agreement between him and Man,” Schreiner said.
But, “they got to an agreement together,” U.S. Circuit Judge William Pryor said. “Man was aware that the proposals were illegal,” he added.
Schreiner argued that Zhang was never satisfied with Man’s offers, and that there was never any evidence to show that they got to an agreement.
According to South Florida’s Sun Sentinel newspaper, during Man’s trial U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom ordered her to receive mental health treatment during and after her imprisonment of four years and two months.
However, even though there was evidence that Man had mental health issues, the judge did not believe that it played an important role in her crime, the SuSentinel reported.
The panel did not say when a final decision would be made on the case.