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.


UK pledges £20m aid for Beirut blast recovery

The blast in Beirut hit a grain silo in the port, exasperating Lebanon's already rising food insecurity. (File/Reuters)
Updated 09 August 2020

UK pledges £20m aid for Beirut blast recovery

  • World leaders have joined a virtual summit to coordinate an effective humanitarian response to the Beirut blast.
  • French President promises aid will not go to "corrupt hands"

LONDON: The UK has pledged an additional £20 million ($26.09 million) in humanitarian aid to Lebanon in response to last week’s massive explosion in Beirut.

International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said the money would go to the UN’s World Food Programme to help Lebanon’s most vulnerable.

The figure was promised at a virtual summit held Sunday that was convened by French President Emmanuel Macron. World leaders met virtually to formulate a global response to the devastating explosion and ensuing humanitarian and economic crisis.

Trevelyan said: “The devastation we have seen in Lebanon this week has left people without homes, medical care and wondering how long it will be until the country’s food supplies run out. Today the world is coming together to stand by the Lebanese people, and as one of the biggest donors to this crisis so far, the UK is pledging more urgent support to help all those affected by this terrible disaster.”

The UK has already provided £5 million in assistance and paid for specialist medics to respond to health needs on the ground. It will also send a Royal Navy vessel to assist the recovery.

Other European countries have also promised to send humanitarian aid. Germany has pledged 10 million euros ($11.78 million) and the European Union has promised 30 million euros.

Despite the sizable donations, the price tag for rebuilding Beirut is likely to cost billions of dollars.

There is also widespread distrust among the Lebanese population about the government’s ability to effectively coordinate the blast response and to manage the huge influx of cash.

Macron, addressing this concern on his recent trip to Beirut, said: “I guarantee you, this (reconstruction) aid will not go to corrupt hands.”