Feeds

Communist spy ring tried to steal Space Shuttle plans

Feds swoop as Chinese agents lift submarine and spaceship blueprints

High performance access to file storage

A Chinese-American engineer was convicted by a federal court in California yesterday of conspiring to supply military technology to the People's Republic.

Chi Mak, a 66-year-old naturalised US citizen born in Guangdong Province, China, was found guilty of conspiracy to violate export regulations and of failing to register as a Chinese [import] agent after a six week trial. He now faces a maximum sentence of 35 years' imprisonment.

According to the Washington Times, Mak and his defence attorney shed tears after the verdict was read out. Sentencing is set for 10 September.

Mak's trial was only the first of a series involving members of his family and their alleged involvement in the plot to sell secrets to the communists. Prosecutors are also pursuing cases against Mak's brother Tai, both the brothers' wives, and Mak's son Billy.

Despite not having charged him with espionage, prosecutors said in court that Chi Mak had been "spying for China". He had been employed as an electrical engineer at Power Paragon, a defence contractor, and had worked on the US Navy's Quiet Electric Drive programme. This project is intended to equip new generations of American nuclear submarines with electric motors for their propellers, rather than drive shafts directly driven by reactor turbines. This could greatly increase the subs' ability to run silently, and confer other important benefits (article here for those interested).

Mak had apparently supplied his brother Tai with quiet-drive related documents which were then put on disc in order to be taken to China. The documents were unclassified, but were proprietary and export-controlled.

But at the last minute the feds stepped in, snapping the bracelets on Tai Mak and his wife at LAX in October 2005 as they were preparing to leave the US. Prosecutors allege that the pair intended to pass the information to Pu Pei-liang, a researcher at the Chinese Centre for Asia Pacific Studies at Zhongshan University, an organisation close to the People's Republic military. Chi Mak and his wife were collared subsequently at home.

It emerged during the trial that China also seeks to snaffle the secrets of the Space Shuttle - perhaps indicating that modern-day commie spies aren't fussy about the freshness of their stolen knowledge. Apparently another Mak relative, Gu Wei Hao, rashly tried to recruit an undercover fed as a go-between. Gu, a Chinese government official, had tried to obtain space shuttle tech from a Boeing engineer named Greg Chung. Gu was also involved in handling Chi Mak and the submarine-blueprints caper.

It was thought that after yesterday's success, prosecutors could be in a stronger negotiating position in plea bargaining with the remaining members of the Mak family spy ring.

The trial provided an insight into the ongoing efforts by the People's Republic to acquire sophisticated military technology from overseas. This will probably not be the last case of its type to come before Western courts. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Big Content goes after Kim Dotcom
Six studios sling sueballs at dead download destination
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
Singapore decides 'three strikes' laws are too intrusive
When even a prurient island nation thinks an idea is dodgy it has problems
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.