Federal investigators said that the spy cases from Cincinnati and Chicago shared the same foreign connection that is known in intelligence circles as a "handler." According to authorities, these cases are part of a possibly wider Chinese scheme to deliver intelligence information overseas.
Ji Chaoqun, one of the accused, is charged with providing intelligence officials in China with background check information on eight citizens of the U.S. including defense contractors. The other individual, Yanjun Xu, is being held on charges he tried to steal trade secrets from GE Aviation, the military contractor and manufacturer where he was employed.
Who Are These People?
Chaoqun, 30, arrived in Chicago in 2013. He entered the U.S. on a student visa to study electrical engineering. After his arrest, the Chinese national has been locked up at the Metropolitan Correctional Center for allegedly violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act of the U.S.
Xu, 40, is accused of accessing and downloading GE Aviation records onto his laptop and then sending all those details via a flight to China. He is now at the federal penitentiary in Milan, Michigan.
Even though there is no indication that these two men conspired together to conduct illegal operations, or ever met with each other, the link between Chaoqun and Xu is in the Chicago court file. Federal investigators said that these two men have shared the same foreign connection that is known in the intelligence circle as a "handler".
The criminal complaint against Chaoqun cites a "clandestine and overt human source collection" used by the officials in China to recruit spy agents and gather stolen intelligence data.
FBI Special Agent Andrew K. McKay said: "Chinese intelligence services conduct extensive overt, covert, and clandestine intelligence collection operations against US national security entities, including private U.S. defense companies, through a network of agents within and outside of China."
Both the accused shared the same covert, "Chinese handler", said the FBI. According to the U.S. authorities, the Chinese handler assigned to secretly oversee both assignments met with the accused separately. The meetings would have taken place in secret locations and frequently hotel rooms. However, as per the authorities, the meetings had only one purpose—share information "as a benefit to the Chinese government".
Investigators said that the unnamed Chinese handler has been working 6500 miles from Beijing.
However, according to recent reports, a growing number of countries such as the Netherlands, Finland and Canada have expressed deep concern about China's espionage and political influence in democracies--something which the US has been alleging for the past three years against the CCP-ruled nation.