Three Germans accused of spying for China, transferring info on potential military tech

Three people suspected of spying for China and arranging to transfer information on technology with potential military applications were arrested in Germany on Monday. Prosecutors said the three German citizens are accused of having acted for Chinese intelligence since some point before June 2022. They are also suspected of violating German export laws by exporting a special laser without permission. One of the suspects, identified only as Thomas R. in line with German privacy laws, was allegedly an agent for an employee of China’s Ministry of State Security and procured information on “militarily usable innovative technologies” for that person, federal prosecutors said in a statement. To do that, prosecutors said, he used Herwig F. and Ina. F, a couple who own a company in Duesseldorf that was used to contact and work with German researchers. The couple allegedly set up a research transfer agreement with an unidentified German university, the first step in which was to draw up a study for a Chinese partner on the technology of machine parts that could be used for powerful ship engines, including those in battleships. Thomas R.’s handler at the MSS was behind the Chinese partner and the project was financed by the Chinese state, prosecutors said. At the time of the arrests, the suspects were in negotiations on further research projects that could be useful for expanding China’s naval combat strength, they added. The suspects also procured with MSS funding a special laser and exported it to China without permission, although it was classified as a “dual-use” instrument under European Union rules, prosecutors said. The homes and offices of the suspects, who were arrested in Duesseldorf and in Bad Homburg, near Frankfurt, were searched. The suspects were arrested a week after a three-day visit to China by Chancellor Olaf Scholz, his second since he took office in late 2021. German officials wouldn’t be drawn on whether the government was aware of the case at the time but said the trip hadn’t played any role in the timing of the arrests. In a strategy for relations released last year, the German government pointed to a “systemic rivalry” with the Asian power and a need to reduce risks of economic dependency, but highlighted its desire to work with Beijing on challenges such as climate change and maintain strong trade ties. The document stated that “we take decisive action to counter all analog and digital espionage and sabotage activities by Chinese intelligence services and state-controlled groups, whether these activities be in or directed against Germany.” Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said Monday’s arrests were “a great success for our counterespionage.” “We are keeping an eye on the significant danger from Chinese espionage in business, industry and science,” she said in a statement. “We are watching these risks and threats very closely and have warned and sensitized people clearly so that protective measures can be stepped up everywhere.”