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To Catch a Chinese/MSS–IP Spy

Xu Yanjun was depressed. He had a superior that did not appreciate him. He regretted having taken the career path he had. If he had stayed in the government job he started, he would have been happier.

His extramarital affair was not going well either. In fact, that sexual interest ignored him on the street. Nobody was paying attention to him. All he had was his obsessive interest in the aviation trade secrets of others.

But Bradley Hull had a definite interest in Xu Yanjun. Bradley came of age in Ohio and got an archeology doctorate in stabilized isotope geochemistry from the University of Oxford. In Bradley’s career, he explored how the use of isotopes in teeth could help to identify dead bodies.

Why did things get more depressing for Xu when he left mainland China and ran into Hull’s buddies in Belgium?

Well, maybe this background information would be helpful.

Four years ago this month, a Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS) agent was arrested in Belgium at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for conspiring to steal U.S. aviation trade secrets and extradited to the U.S.

That MSS agent was Xu Yanjun.

The investigation and arrest was coordinated by FBI Special Agent Bradley Hull.

It was the first time a Chinese MSS agent had ever been extradited to face charges in the United States.

On November 5, 2021, that MSS agent was convicted.

Last month, Bloomberg Businessweek published a twenty-page article titled, “A Chinese Spy Wanted GE’s Secrets, But the US Got China’s Instead: How the arrest of a burned-out intelligence officer exposed an economic-espionage machine.”

The article is a comprehensive narrative on how the MSS agent used covert, coercive and corrupt strategies to steal that which his government had not earned.

What makes this article so important is to not only learn how the FBI adeptly investigated and lured the Chinese spy to Belgium. But it gives us an authentic look at the workings of the MSS; its strengths and limitations in carrying out its culturally ingrained trade secrets theft mission.

Here is a quote from the Bloomberg article, “…Xu had stockpiled to lay out a portrait of him—his training, methods, and ambitions, his vices and private doubts and grievances. Translated from the original Mandarin, it’s an unprecedentedly intimate portrait of how China’s economic espionage machine works, and what life is like for its cogs.”

The Chinese spy is to be sentenced next month.

According to the Bloomberg article, he is facing up to fifty years in prison.

DisclaimerIPProbe.Global is a service to the professional IP community. While every effort has been made to check information in this blog, we provide no guarantees or warranties, express or implied, regarding the content provided in IPProbe.Global. We disclaim all liability and responsibility for the qualification or accuracy of representations made by the contributors or for any disputes that may arise. It is the responsibility of the readers to independently investigate and verify the credentials of such persons and the accuracy and validity of the information provided by them. This blog is for general information only and not intended to provide legal or other professional.

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Ron Alvarez is an IP investigations and protection consultant and writer in New York City. He is a former NYPD lieutenant where he investigated robbery, narcotics, internal affairs, and fine art theft cases. Ron has since coordinated the private investigation of international fraud and money laundering cases, as well as IP-related investigations and research involving the four pillars of IP: copyright, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets. Ron is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and earned a B.A. in Government and Public Administration from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan. He has written a number of articles for various investigative publications, as well as published "The World of Intellectual Property (IP) Protection and Investigations" in November 2021.

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