China has raided the offices of a U.S. firm and detained its staff, the company said as tensions between the two countries reached new highs in recent months.
The company, corporate due diligence firm Mintz Group, confirmed that “Chinese authorities have detained the five staff in Mintz Group’s Beijing office, all of them Chinese nationals, and have closed our operations there,” Reuters reported.
A source at the company, which is based in New York, told Reuters the raid came in the afternoon on March 20, and the detained employees are being held somewhere outside Beijing.
Mintz Group stated that it “has not received any official legal notice regarding a case against the company and has requested that the authorities release its employees.” The company said it is willing to cooperate with authorities to “resolve any misunderstanding that may have led to these events,” Reuters reported.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said on Friday that she was not aware of the incident, Reuters reported.
The raid on Mintz Group follows the FBI raid last fall of a Chinese overseas “police station” in New York City’s Chinatown, which was reportedly part of a network of over 100 secretive Chinese outposts around the globe.
FBI counterintelligence agents reportedly seized materials from the office as part of a criminal investigation with the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
The Mintz Group raid also came ahead of an economic forum set to be held this weekend in Beijing and attended by Apple CEO Tim Cook, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, and other top executives, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.
On its LinkedIn page, Mintz Group describes itself as “a corporate investigations firm that gathers information before hiring, before transactions, during litigation disputes and after frauds, all over the world.”
The company has 18 offices around the world, according to its website, but its Beijing office is the only one in mainland China. Another office is in Hong Kong.
Another U.S. firm has recently seen its overseas operations shut down by government forces. Mexican troops have since March 14 been occupying a port in Mexico owned and operated by the U.S.-based Vulcan Materials Company.
The occupation reportedly stems from a disagreement over the terms of sharing the port with a Mexican company and follows a protracted legal battle over Vulcan’s underwater limestone mining near the tourist destination of Playa del Carmen.