Germany arrests three people on suspicion of leaking secrets to China

Three Germans suspected of collecting sensitive naval data and acquiring powerful lasers on behalf of Chinese security officials were arrested on Monday, prosecutors said, underscoring the fragile nature of relations between the two countries.

The man, identified as Thomas R., is acting as an “agent” for China’s Ministry of State Security, in accordance with German privacy rules, and two others, a couple identified as Herwig and Ina F., who run an engineering company. I made a contract with In Düsseldorf, authorities announced.

The arrests come at a troubling time for the German government. Germany is also wary of Chinese threats, although Chancellor Olaf Scholz recently spent three days in China as the two countries signed several bilateral trade agreements.

“We recognize that Chinese espionage poses a huge risk to business, industry and science,” German Interior Minister Nancy Feser said in a statement. “We are monitoring these risks and threats very closely and are issuing clear warnings and raising awareness so that protective measures are strengthened everywhere,” she added.

Separately, British authorities said: in a statement On Monday, it was announced that two men had been arrested and charged with violating the Official Secrets Act in connection with China.

The threat to Germany became clear last week when Volkswagen admitted in a separate incident that Chinese hackers stole an estimated 19,000 confidential documents from the automaker over a four-year period starting in 2010. Volkswagen is one of Germany’s largest companies.

Last year, around 97 billion euros (about $103 billion) of German products were sold in China, making it Germany’s fourth largest export market and a particularly important market for its powerful automotive sector.

Experts are increasingly wary of China’s aggressive trade practices. Last year, the German government released a national strategy document focused on China, calling the trading partner a “systemic rival.”

The arrests came as police raided the homes and workplaces of the three suspects in Düsseldorf and Bad Homburg in the country’s west.

Authorities said Helwig and Ina F. used their company, which had previously worked on projects in China, to establish a formal research partnership with an unidentified German research university.

Under the guise of working for a legitimate business partner, which authorities say is a front company for China’s Ministry of State Security, the couple investigated the modern development of certain mechanical components essential to the development of advanced technology. We requested an investigation. A powered marine motor such as that used on naval vessels.

The couple also used their company to purchase high-power dual-purpose lasers and export them to China without the necessary export permits.

After the arrest, German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann said, “Those who work for foreign intelligence services in Germany and illegally export military-useful materials must expect a harsh response from a constitutional state.” Stated.

There were no public comments from Chinese authorities.

Federal prosecutors said the three suspects were working on a new research project benefiting the Chinese Navy at the time of their arrest. It added that the group had been working on behalf of China since at least June 2022.

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