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Multiple instances of intellectual property theft and espionage activities in the United States, perpetrated on the behest on the Communist Party of China (CCP), have come to light in recent years. The US Justice Department has recently unearthed one such case wherein a Singapore national created a ‘fake’ consultancy firm and used social networking sites such as Linkedin to recruit US government employees and pass off sensitive information about the government to the Chinese authorities.
Jun Wei Yeo, who operated under the alias of Dickson Yeo, worked for the Chinese Intelligence. Yeo, a Singapore national and a Ph.D. student at the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP), created a fake consultancy in 2018 and posted job advertisements to lure the US military and government employees with security clearance. His consulting firm bore the same name as an existing US-based consulting company working in the field of public and government relations.
As per reports, on receiving resumes from the government employees, he would forward them to the Chinese officials. Besides running a fake consulting firm, the accused also used professional networking sites such as Linkedin to recruit ‘susceptible people’ with access to sensitive information about the US government. Following the directives of Chinese Intelligence operatives, he identified the vulnerabilities of potential targets, including financial constraints and dissatisfaction with existing work.
Yeo began working with Chinese Intelligence in 2015
Reportedly, Yeo would then pay his recruits to write reports about sensitive, non-public information. He misled them into believing that they were writing these reports for his clients in Asia and not the Chinese government. The accused began working with the Chinese authorities in 2015 and would initially solicit sensitive information from high-profile individuals in other Asian countries.
But, soon, at the behest of Chinese Intelligence, the United States government became his sole focus. As per the report, he avoided detection by law enforcement and ‘knowingly’ recruited people in the US. His PhD supervisor, Huang Jing, had his permanent residency of Singapore revoked for trying to influence foreign policy at the directives of an ‘unknown government.’
Yeo pleads guilty in US Court
On Friday, Jun Wei Yeo pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to creating a fake consulting firm in the US to collect sensitive information for the Chinese authorities. Reportedly, he confessed to targeting an army officer and several government employees to gather non-public information.
Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers, representing the US Justice Department’s National Security Division noted, “The Chinese Government uses an array of duplicity to obtain sensitive information from unsuspecting Americans. This is yet another example of the Chinese government’s exploitation of the openness of American society.” Acting Attorney General Michael R Sherwin said that the guilty plea by Yeo was a testimony to the nefarious plans of the Chinese government to target Americans. “We will continue to prosecute those who use deceptive practices on the Internet and elsewhere to undermine our national security,” he conceded.
Although the maximum penalty for the said crime is 10 years, the Court will pronounce its verdict about his actual sentence on Oct 9 this year. The law enforcement officials have also warned government employees and those with high-security clearance to be wary of ‘implausible’ job opportunities.
Donald Trump accuses China of espionage
Accusing China of misconduct, US President Donald Trump earlier said, “They raided our factories, offshored our jobs, cut out our industries, stole our intellectual property, and violated the commitment under the World Trade Organisation (WTO).”