A Chinese government intelligence officer, the first to be extradited to the United States for trial, was sentenced to 20 years in prison Wednesday after being convicted last year of multiple charges including conspiracy to commit corporate espionage and attempted theft of trade secrets.
According to prosecutors, Yanjun Xu – the deputy division director at the Chinese Ministry of State Security – targeted foreign and US companies focused on aviation in an effort to steal information, including US military information and aviation trade secrets.
Xu was convicted by a jury in Cincinnati last year.
“This case is just the latest example of the Chinese government’s continued attacks on American economic security – and, by extension, our national security,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement following the sentencing.
Xu would provide employees of GE Aviation – which worked with the FBI in its case against him – with trips to China to give presentations to a university there and ask for detailed information on designs and “system specifications,” according to the Justice Department.
According to prosecutors, Xu tried to steal an exclusive composite aircraft engine fan module from GE Aviation and recruited “insiders” in a French aircraft engine manufacturer facility to plant malware on their computer to infiltrate the manufacturer’s network.
Another Chinese spy was convicted in September of working with Xu and the Chinese Ministry of State Security while attending school in Chicago. Xu had directed that spy, Ji Chaoqun, “to collect biographical information on people to potentially recruit to work with them,” prosecutors said.
“As proven at trial, the defendant, a Chinese government intelligence officer, used a range of techniques to attempt to steal technology and proprietary information from companies based in both the U.S. and abroad,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. “Today’s sentence demonstrates the seriousness of those crimes and the Justice Department’s determination to investigate and prosecute efforts by the Chinese government, or any foreign power, to threaten our economic and national security.”