Good afternoon. I am joined today by Deputy Attorney General Monaco, FBI Director Wray, and Assistant Attorney General Olsen. Also here are Assistant United States Attorneys from the Eastern District of New York and the District of New Jersey.
Over the past week, the Justice Department has taken several actions to disrupt criminal activity by individuals working on behalf of the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). As always, the defendants in these cases are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Earlier today, in the Eastern District of New York, a complaint was unsealed charging two PRC intelligence officers with attempting to obstruct, influence, and impede a criminal prosecution of a PRC-based telecommunications company.
The complaint alleges that, in 2019, the defendants directed an employee at a U.S. government law enforcement agency to steal confidential information about the United States’ criminal prosecution of the company.
The defendants believed they had recruited the U.S. government employee as an asset. But in fact, the individual they recruited was actually a double agent, working on behalf of the FBI.
As the complaint alleges, the defendants paid a bribe to the double agent to obtain non-public information, including files from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District. They did so in the hope of obtaining the prosecution’s strategy memo, confidential information regarding witnesses, trial evidence, and potential new charges to be brought against the company.
The double agent provided the defendants with documents that appeared to present some of the information they sought. In fact, the documents were prepared by the United States government for the purpose of this investigation and did not reveal actual meetings, communications, or strategies.
This was an egregious attempt by PRC intelligence officers to shield a PRC-based company from accountability and to undermine the integrity of our judicial system.
Also earlier today, in the District of New Jersey, an indictment was unsealed charging four individuals, including three PRC intelligence officers, with conspiring to act in the United States as illegal agents on behalf of a foreign government.
The indictment alleges that, between 2008 and 2018, the defendants used the cover of a purported Chinese academic institute to target, co-opt, and direct individuals in the United States to further the PRC’s intelligence mission.
Those directives included attempts to procure technology and equipment from the United States and to have it shipped to China. They also included attempts to stop protected First Amendment activities – protests here in the United States – which would have been embarrassing to the Chinese government.
Separately, in the Eastern District of New York, the Justice Department charged seven individuals, who were working on behalf of the PRC, with engaging in a multi-year campaign of threats and harassment to force a U.S. resident to return to China. Last Thursday, we arrested two of those defendants.
Those activities were part of the PRC’s global, extralegal effort, known as “Operation Fox Hunt.” Its purpose is to locate and bring back to China alleged fugitives who have fled to foreign countries, including the United States. The PRC has a history of targeting political dissidents and critics of the government who have sought refuge in other countries.
The indictment alleges that the defendants, working at the direction of the government of the PRC, engaged in a campaign of harassment, threats, surveillance, and intimidation aimed at coercing the victim to return to China.
We also allege that the defendants threatened and harassed the victim’s family members, both in the U.S. and in China.
The PRC government forced the victim’s nephew to travel from China to the United States to convey the PRC’s threats to the victim’s son.
The defendants threatened the victim, saying that “coming back and turning yourself in is the only way out.” They showed up at the home of the victim’s son in New York. They filed frivolous lawsuits against the victim and his son and said it would be “endless misery” for the [father] and son to defend themselves.
And they made clear that their harassment would not stop until the victim returned to China.
As these cases demonstrate, the government of China sought to interfere with the rights and freedoms of individuals in the United States and to undermine our judicial system that protects those rights. They did not succeed.
The Justice Department will not tolerate attempts by any foreign power to undermine the Rule of Law upon which our democracy is based.
We will continue to fiercely protect the rights guaranteed to everyone in our country. And we will defend the integrity of our institutions.
Before I turn the podium over to Deputy Attorney General Monaco, I want to recognize the FBI, the National Security Division, and the U.S. Attorneys’ offices for their extraordinary work on these cases.
And now, Deputy Attorney General Monaco.
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