Germany investigates three over ‘spying for China’

If the spying allegations are confirmed, it would be a rare case of Chinese espionage being uncovered. (File/AFP)
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Updated 15 January 2020

Germany investigates three over ‘spying for China’

  • Prosecutors refused to provide details about the suspects and said no arrests have been made
  • One of them is charged with sharing private and commercial information with the Chinese ministry for state security

FRANKFURT AM MAIN: German prosecutors on Wednesday said they were investigating three people who allegedly spied for China, with media reporting that a German former EU diplomat was among the suspects.
“We can confirm an investigation into suspected espionage” for Chinese state security bodies, a spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office told AFP.
Der Spiegel weekly said one of the suspects was a German diplomat who worked at the European Commission in Brussels before serving several stints as ambassador for the European Union in foreign countries.
The other two are reportedly lobbyists employed by a “well-known Germany lobby firm.”
Prosecutors refused to provide details about the suspects and said no arrests have been made.
But they confirmed Spiegel’s information that police were on Wednesday raiding homes and offices linked to the trio in Berlin, Brussels and the German states of Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg.
According to Spiegel, prosecutors accuse the former diplomat and one of the lobbyists of “sharing private and commercial information with the Chinese ministry for state security.”
The third suspect apparently only indicated “a willingness to do so.”
The diplomat at the center of the probe reportedly ended his EU career in 2017 and switched to working for a lobbying firm, where he then recruited the two other suspects.
The spying is alleged to have started that same year.
If the allegations are confirmed, it would be a rare case of Chinese espionage being uncovered.
“Although there is always much talk about large-scale Chinese spying operations in Germany and Europe, investigators are rarely successful against Beijing’s secret services,” Spiegel wrote.
The probe comes at a time of intense debate in Europe’s top economy about whether or not to exclude Chinese tech giant Huawei from developing Germany’s 5G mobile networks.
Critics, led by Washington, say Huawei is too close to Beijing and its equipment could be used as a tool for spying — an allegation Huawei strongly denies.
US President Donald Trump has already ordered American firms to cease doing business with market leader Huawei, and has urged allies to follow suit.
Australia and Japan have also taken steps to bar or tightly restrict the firm’s participation in their 5G networks.
Germany so far has resisted pressure to ban Huawei.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has instead said Berlin would insist on stringent security requirements without barring individual companies.
China is a crucial trading partner for Germany but concerns have mounted in recent years over a spike in Chinese investments in German firms.
The buying spree has fueled fears of vital German knowhow and technology being sold off to Beijing, prompting the government to tighten restrictions on foreign takeovers.


Ukraine to press for plane crash black boxes as Iran minister visits

Updated 20 January 2020

Ukraine to press for plane crash black boxes as Iran minister visits

  • Ukraine’s foreign minister said returning the black boxes would show that Iran wanted an unbiased investigation of the crash
  • The plane disaster has heightened international pressure on Iran

KIEV: Ukraine will press Iran to hand over the black boxes from the crash of a Ukrainian passenger plane at a meeting with a visiting Iranian delegation on Monday, Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko told reporters.
Ukraine would convey the message to visiting Minister of Roads and Urban Development Mohammad Eslami, that returning the black boxes would show that Iran wanted an unbiased investigation of the crash, Prystaiko said.
“His main task is to apologize and acknowledge what happened. We hope that we can go a little further than just political discussions and discuss practical problems. Among them in particular is the return of the black boxes,” Prystaiko said.
Iran had said on Sunday it was trying to analyze the black boxes from the airliner its military shot down this month, denying an earlier report it would hand them to Ukraine. All 176 aboard the flight died.
“At first they stated that they were handing them over, then the same person stated that they were not handing them over. This created some misunderstanding in Ukraine and we were starting to be asked: are they being handed over or not?“
Many of those killed had were Iranians with dual citizenship, but Iran does not recognize dual nationality and on Monday said it would treat the victims as Iranian nationals.
Canada, which had 57 citizens on the flight, said there were still no firm plans for downloading the recorders. Ottawa and other capitals have called for the black boxes to be sent abroad.
The Jan. 8 plane disaster has heightened international pressure on Iran as it grapples with a long-running dispute with the United States over its nuclear program and its influence in the region that briefly erupted into open conflict this month.
The Iranian military has said it downed Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 in error in the aftermath of tit-for-tat strikes by the United States and Iran. But authorities delayed admitting this, prompting days of protests on Iran’s streets.
Ukraine held a ceremony at Kiev’s Boryspil airport on Sunday as the bodies of 11 citizens, including nine crew, were returned to Ukraine.