Yanjun Xu, a deputy division director for the Chinese Ministry of State Security, or MSS, was indicted by a grand jury in the Southern District of Ohio, charged with four counts of conspiring and attempting to commit economic espionage and theft of trade secrets.
He was extradited to the U.S. on Tuesday and the charges were unsealed Wednesday.
The 16-page indictment claims Xu targeted, recruited and paid travel expenses for aviation and aerospace company experts “under the guise or false belief that the expert was traveling to China merely for ‘an exchange’ of ideas and/or to give a presentation at a university… In reality, the presentations were for the benefit of the Chinese government.”
Xu allegedly worked with others including fellow MSS officers to carry out the scheme which began in 2013.
Ohio-based GE Aviation is named as one of the targeted companies that Xu allegedly recruited experts from by using a fake identity and pretending to be associated with Chinese universities, organizations and associations.
He was arrested in Belgium in April after trying to meet an employee from an unnamed company to obtain sensitive information about fan rotor blades made from composite materials, according to the indictment.
John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security, condemned Xu’s alleged actions in a statement Wednesday.
“This case is not an isolated incident. It is part of an overall economic policy of developing China at American expense,” he said. “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.”
Xu faces a maximum of 25 years in prison if convicted – 15 years for conspiracy and attempt to commit economic espionage and 10 years for conspiracy and attempt to commit theft of trade secrets.
The MSS is China’s intelligence and security agency in charge of counterintelligence, foreign intelligence and political security.