Chicago College Student Accused of Being a Spy

dmitry-ratushny-64773-copy-300x199If you are into intrigue, the case against Chicago exchange student Ji Chaoqun has got to be one of the most fascinating developments in recent memory. Ji is accused of being a Chinese spy tasked with gathering information on eight Chinese nationals working for major U.S. aerospace companies and many of whom have worked for Department of Defense contractors. 

Officials believe that Ji met with handlers in China where he was tasked with uncovering biographical information on these individuals and attempting to recruit them for the Chinese government. Officials say that China was attempting to steal U.S. secrets related to aerospace engineering and Ji was meant to help turn the eight scientific experts against the U.S. and leak our secrets to the Chinese government. 

The student now finds himself embroiled in an international conspiracy.

Chinese Spy Brought to U.S. to Face Prosecution 

One of Ji’s alleged handlers, Yanjun Xu, was extradited to the U.S. in an unprecedented move. Yanjun is the first Chinese spy to be extradited in such a manner. Yanjun is accused of luring experts from American aeronautics companies to China, telling them that they would give presentations at Chinese universities. Yanjun is accused of passing information along to Nanjing University which purportedly has significant influence of the Chinese aerospace industry. Accordingly, U.S. officials believe the entire pretense was built on the desire to steal U.S. trade secrets. Yanjun has been accused of “economic espionage” and Ji of aiding and abetting that espionage. 

This case is related to U.S. concerns that Chinese agents are attempting to steal ideas and technology from U.S. defense contractors. This resulted in the Trump administration imposing tariffs on China and implementing what is known as the China Initiative to prevent future theft of U.S. secrets. The administration believes that China’s thefts have cost U.S. investors money and represents a serious threat to the U.S. economy. 

Ji Maintains Innocence

Throughout this process, Ji has maintained his innocence and claims that he is not, in fact, a foreign agent working for Chinese intelligence. But what is economic espionage? If you have ever read a book with spy protagonists or seen a Mission Impossible, then you probably have some familiarity with the concept. Strictly speaking, economic espionage is a crime described in  18 U.S.C. § 1831 as stealing, destroying, transmitting, or otherwise accessing information without the consent of the owner. The prosecution must prove that the information was a trade secret and that the offense was intended to benefit a foreign government or agent. A similar crime, theft of trade secrets, does not involve a foreign government. Since this is a federal crime, it will be charged in federal court. 

Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are accused of being a Chinese spy, then you need an attorney who understands federal legal procedures since states do not file espionage charges against foreign nationals. David Freidberg has defended several U.S. citizens from federal charges and has the expertise you need to raise a viable defense. Call us today at  (312) 560-7100 or talk to us online for more information.