Chinese pleads guilty in trying to get high-grade carbon fibre for China’s military

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 April, 2017, 6:20am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 April, 2017, 6:20am

A Chinese citizen pleaded guilty on Friday to charges of trying to illegally export to China high-grade carbon fibre used primarily in aerospace and military applications, the US Justice Department said in a statement.

Fuyi Sun, 53, who pleaded guilty before US District Judge Alvin Hellerstein in New York federal court, admitted he tried to procure the carbon fibre for the Chinese military, the statement said. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison when sentenced on July 26, it said.

A lawyer for Sun could not immediately be reached for comment.

Sun was arrested last April after he travelled to obtain M60 carbon fiber, which is used in military drone aircraft, from people working as undercover US law enforcement agents, prosecutors said.

US Navy officer faces rare espionage charge, suspected of spying for Taiwan, Beijing, or both

Sun began trying to acquire the carbon fibre around 2011, prosecutors said. He repeatedly told the agents the fibre he wanted would go to the Chinese military, with which he said he had a close relationship, according to charges filed against him.

Prosecutors say Sun asked the undercover agents about buying about 450 kilogrammes of carbon fibre for more than US$62,000. When he met the agents in New York last April, they say, Sun agreed to pay US$25,000 for carbon fibre.

He took steps to conceal the purchase from US authorities, including asking the undercover agents to use “banana” as a code word for “carbon fibre” and falsifying customs documents.

His arrest underlined tensions between the United States and China over intellectual property rights. The FBI has said cases of economic espionage rose 53 per cent in 2015, the majority of which involved Chinese nationals.