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China-US relations

US court jails ‘bipolar’ Chinese man who tried to export to mainland carbon fibre used in military drones

Fuyi Sun is sentenced to three years’ jail by judge, taking his mental health into account

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 September, 2017, 1:37pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 September, 2017, 1:37pm

A Chinese man who pleaded guilty to US charges of illegally trying to export to China high-grade carbon fibre used primarily in aerospace and military applications was sentenced to three years in prison on Thursday.

The sentence imposed on Fuyi Sun by US District Judge Alvin Hellerstein, in Manhattan federal court, was less than the 46 months called for by federal guidelines. Hellerstein said he was taking into account Sun’s mental health conditions, which include bipolar disorder.

Sun’s lawyers had said in a court filing that Sun was manipulated into trying to export the carbon fibre by his older brother. Amy Gallicchio, one of the lawyers, declined to comment after Thursday’s hearing.

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I would like to be able to return to China to resume my medical treatment so I can recover from my mental conditions
Fuyi Sun

Sun, 53, has already spent 16 months in jail, which will count toward the three-year sentence. Gallicchio had argued at the hearing that he should be sentenced to time served, saying his mental health treatment while in US custody had not been adequate.

“I would like to be able to return to China to resume my medical treatment so I can recover from my mental conditions,” Sun said through an interpreter before being sentenced.

Sun was arrested in April 2016 after he travelled to the US to obtain M60 carbon fibre, which is used in military drone aircraft, from people working as undercover US law enforcement agents, prosecutors said. He pleaded guilty in April 2017.

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

Prosecutors said Sun asked the undercover agents about buying about 450kg 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. As part of the scheme he said he planned to send it to China via Australia.

Sun 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, prosecutors said.

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, most of which involved Chinese nationals.