The Department of Justice announced it had arrested and charged a Chinese intelligence officer with economic espionage and theft of trade secrets from US aviation and aerospace companies, according to a news release.
The extradition of Xu was a joint effort of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Cincinnati Division, and substantial support was provided by the FBI Legal Attaché's Office in Brussels as well as Belgian law enforcement officials, who "provided significant assistance in securing the arrest and facilitating the surrender of Xu from Belgium", according to the Justice Department.
He was arrested in Belgium earlier this year and on Tuesday extradited to the US.
U.S. Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said this case is not an isolated incident. "It is part of an overall economic policy of developing China at American expense", said assistant attorney general Demers.
We can not tolerate a nation stealing our firepower and the fruits of our brainpower.
Xu is making his first appearance in federal court in Cincinnati Wednesday.
The DOJ said Xu is a top member of the Ministry of State Security - the Chinese intelligence agency whose members have permission to spy in China and around the world.
The emails discussed China's attempts to obtain information on composite fan rotors for aircraft, and Xu urged one US employee of a company to provide information on a computer flash drive.
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Prosecutors said from 2013 to his arrest in April, Xu would recruit experts from aviation companies to travel to China under the false pretense they would give educational presentations at a university.
In one instance, Xu targeted data on the design and composite materials of GE engine rotor blades, sending an informant specific questions he wanted answered, according to intercepted communications cited in the indictment.
Xu proposed meeting the employee during a trip to Europe.
"I can't recall an economic espionage case where we first arrested the person they were running inside the United States and then got the person running him from overseas, " said Carlin, author of the forthcoming book Dawn of the Code War. Some of those defendants were charged with trying to steal everything from wind turbine technology to engineered rice and corn, which provides a sense of the breadth of what US officials say Beijing is looking to acquire.
NBC News on Tuesday quoted US officials as saying a professor at a top cancer research center in Houston facing child pornography charges was also under scrutiny for alleged economic espionage for China.
Often, the Justice Department issues indictments that charge people still in China.
Beijing on Thursday dismissed U.S. espionage accusations against an alleged Chinese intelligence agent who was extradited from Belgium as made "out of thin air" - upping the ante in a case likely to exacerbate tensions between the global powers.
The FBI called it an unprecedented extradition and said the indictment showed the direct oversight of China's government in economic espionage against the United States.
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