Two alleged Chinese intelligence officers have been charged with bribing a U.S. official for information on a criminal case against a Chinese-owned telecommunications company, the Justice Department revealed on Monday.
People familiar with the matter said that company is Huawei Technologies Co., according to The Wall Street Journal.
Huawei, one of the world’s biggest makers of smartphones and telecom equipment, has been frozen out of the U.S. and other Western markets in recent years over concerns that its technology could funnel data to the People’s Republic of China, which Huawei has denied.
The ongoing U.S. criminal case alleges the tech giant stole intellectual property from six U.S. companies in a decades-long scheme, according to the Washington Post.
The new charges suggest an official effort from China to clandestinely subvert the case after the U.S. placed dramatic sanctions on the company, which its chairman told BBC “caused a lot of damage to us.”
Prosecutors unveiled their allegations Monday. They did not name Huawei, instead referring to a “global telecommunications company.”
Beginning in 2017, the Chinese spies, identified as Guochun He and Zheng Wang, built a relationship with a U.S. law enforcement official in hopes to gather information about the Huawei case, according to prosecutors.
Instead, the U.S. official began working as a double agent for the FBI and shared phony “sensitive information,” receiving thousands of dollars in cash, Bitcoin and jewelry, according to the complaint.
One spy paid $41,000 in Bitcoin for what they believed was a secret document detailing plans to arrest two of the company’s employees in China.
The spies directed the U.S. official to reveal prosecutors’ evidence, witness list and trial strategy, the Justice Department alleged.
The spies are at large, believed to be in China, the Journal reported.