Chinese man pleads guilty to attempting to smuggle military secrets out of US

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 July, 2014, 10:23am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 July, 2014, 3:47pm

A 28-year-old Chinese man pleaded guilty on Wednesday of attempting to smuggle military technology obtained from undercover US agents out of the United States to China, the US Justice Department said.

Cai Bo, an employee of a Chinese technology firm, was accused along with his cousin Cai Wentong, 29, of trying to illegally export sensors primarily manufactured for sale to the US. Department of Defense.

Cai Wentong, who was in the United States on a student visa, has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

The US Arms Export Control Act and International Traffic in Arms Regulations prohibit the export of defense-related materials from the United States without a license or written approval from the US Department of State.

"This prosecution demonstrates the federal law enforcement community’s commitment to safeguarding our nation’s military secrets by keeping America’s critical technology from falling into the wrong hands," a Justice Department statement quoted Damon Martinez, US Attorney for New Mexico, as saying.

The statement said that Cai Bo admitted enlisting Cai Wentong to acquire the sensors and that the cousin used the pretext that he would use them at Iowa State University, where he was a graduate microbiology student.

The two men were detained after obtaining a sensor from undercover US Homeland Security agents in New Mexico in December after negotiations by email and phone.

Cai Bo was arrested at an airport in Los Angeles in December as he was preparing to board a flight to China. The sensor was discovered concealed in a computer speaker in his luggage, the statement said.

He faces a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years on the Arms Export Control Act charge, 10 years for smuggling and five years for conspiracy, it said.

Cai Wentong is in custody in New Mexico and is due to go on trial on August 18.

US accusations of spying by China have raised tensions between Washington and Beijing in recent months.

In May, the United States charged five Chinese military officers with hacking into American companies to steal trade secrets. China showed its anger over the allegations by shutting down a bilateral working group on cyber security.

Earlier this month, The New York Times quoted senior US officials as saying that in March, Chinese hackers broke into the computer networks of the US government agency that keeps the personal information of all federal employees.

The paper said the hackers appeared to be targeting files on tens of thousands of employees who have applied for top-secret security clearances.