The United States on Monday unveiled charges accusing two Chinese intelligence officers of attempting to subvert a criminal investigation into a Chinese telecommunications giant, alleging that two men working on behalf of Beijing sought to obtain prosecution secrets by bribing a person they did not realize was a U.S. double agent.
The details in the complaint closely track a prior case filed against Huawei. U.S. Justice Department indicted Huawei Technologies in 2019, accusing the world’s largest communications equipment manufacturer and some of its executives with violating U.S. sanctions on Iran and conspiring to obstruct justice related to the investigation — prompting furious condemnations from both the company and the country.
The new charges suggest that the Chinese government went to great lengths to try to defeat the U.S. case on the China-based global telecommunications company, assigning alleged Chinese intelligence officers to obtain information about witnesses and evidence. Huawei has long insisted it operates independently of the Chinese government.
The 29-page complaint unsealed Monday against the two Chinese men — Guochun He and Zheng Wang — charges they attempted to recruit a person they believed was a U.S. law enforcement agency employee who could act as a spy on the ongoing investigation. In fact, according to the charging document, that employee was monitored and steered by the FBI, sharing the conversations and helping U.S. prosecutors build a case against the two men.
Parts of the unsealed complaint read like a spy novel, describing efforts by the alleged intelligence officers to use a public pay phone to contact a person they thought had connections to the Justice Department, offering bribes in bitcoin and assigning code names such as “Marilyn Monroe” and “Cary Grant” to purported witnesses. The two men are charged with money laundering and obstruction.
The charges come as the United States has taken increasingly aggressive measures to contain China’s rise in the military and technology spheres. The Justice Department’s National Security Division also has renewed its focus on deterring foreign malign influence in the United States.
A Huawei representative did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Aaron Schaffer contributed to this report.