According to a press release from the Department of Justice (DoJ), two Chinese individuals allegedly paid over $60,000 in Bitcoin to a U.S. government official to obtain classified information. The Chinese suspects were identified as Guochun He (“Dong He”) and Zheng Wang (“Zen Wang”).
The suspect allegedly arranged a Bitcoin-based bribery scheme to lure members of the Eastern District of New York and “obstruct criminal prosecution” of a major tech Chinese company. This entity is referred to as “Company-1” in the press release.
However, a report from the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) identifies the company as “Huawei,” the Chinese tech and communications behemoth. In 2018 the company was accused of allegedly lying about its operations in Iran, a country sanctioned by the United States government.
According to the plaintiff, the suspect allegedly organized and ran an espionage operation against Huawei’s prosecution. In that sense, He and Wang recruited an agent to work closely with the case.
This individual was working with U.S. authorities as a “double agent.” Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said China is making “unrelenting efforts” to “undermine the rule of law” in this country:
(…) the case involves an effort by PRC intelligence officers to obstruct an ongoing criminal prosecution by making bribes to obtain files from this Office and sharing them with a global telecommunications company that is a charged defendant in an ongoing prosecution. We will always act decisively to counteract criminal acts that target our system of justice.
Bitcoin Unmasked Allege Chinese Spying Scheme?
The two main suspects in the case, He and Wang, remain at large. The former is charged with two counts of money laundering for using $61,000 in Bitcoin to bribe the double agent, and both suspects are charged with the obstruction of criminal prosecution. Matthew Olsen, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, said:
The Department of Justice will not abide nation-state actors meddling in U.S. criminal process and investigations, and will not tolerate foreign interference with the fair administration of justice.
The suspects used Bitcoin to pay the double agent on two different occasions. The first was in 2021, for $40,000, for stealing the strategy memorandum related to the “Huawei” case. The second payment was made for $20,000 in September 2022.
Guochun He faces up to 60 years of imprisonment and Wang up to 20 years if found guilty, according to the press release. Christopher Wray, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said the Chinese spies that tried to bridge the U.S. government official with Bitcoin represent a “threat” to the Constitution of the United States and its people. Wray added:
(…) By attempting to steal documents from the Eastern District of New York, intelligence officers from the People’s Republic of China threatened not just the proceedings of our criminal justice system but the very idea of justice itself. A threat to justice is a threat to the foundation of our free society (…).
Attorney General Garland announces charge against Chinese intelligence officials: “This was an egregious attempt by PRC (People’s Republic of China) intelligence officers to shield a PRC-based company from accountability and to undermine the integrity of our judicial system.” pic.twitter.com/xjKw7PNDWk
— CSPAN (@cspan) October 24, 2022