Chinese officer faces up to 60 years prison, more than $5 million fine for stealing US aviation secrets

A Chinese intelligence officer was convicted by a US jury of plotting to steal secrets from aviation companies, according to the US justice department.

Xu Yanjun was found guilty of five counts relating to economic espionage and trade secret theft.

He faces up to 60 years in prison and fines of more than $5 million.

Xu was first arrested in Belgium in 2018 and is possibly the first Chinese operative to be extradited to the US for trial.

Beijing has previously dismissed the accusations, saying there was no basis to the charges.

According to a statement by the US justice department, Xu is a senior member of the Jiangsu branch of China’s Ministry of State Security an agency responsible for counter-intelligence, foreign intelligence and internal security.

Xu was accused of targeting employees at several companies based in the US, among other countries since at least 2013.

In one instance, he arranged for a GE Aviation employee to travel to China in 2017 to give a presentation at a university, paying for their travel expenses and a stipend.

The following year, Xu asked the expert for “system specification, design process” information. With co-operation from the company the employee emailed Xu a two-page document labelled as having sensitive information.

Xu later asked the employee to send a copy of the file directory for his work-issued computer.

He also tried to arrange to meet the employee in Belgium, leading to his eventual arrest.

Last month, CIA Director Bill Burns reportedly described China as the greatest technological threat to the US.