A Chinese citizen was sentenced in the US to 20 years in prison for economic espionage

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Federal prosecutors say Yanjun Xu was a deputy division head in China's Ministry of State Security. He was charged with attempting to steal US trade secrets

A Chinese national was sentenced in the US to 20 years in prison for economic espionage

This photo provided by the Butler County Jail, Ohio, shows Chinese citizen Yanjun Xu (AP)

A US federal judge Thursday sentenced him to 20 years in prisona Chinese national who was found guilty of attempting to steal trade secrets from various US aircraft and aerospace companies, including the theft of patented aircraft fan technology.

Judge Timothy Black of Cincinnati rejected arguments by Yanjun Xu's lawyers that a long sentence was too harsh and that the just under five years Xu has served since his arrest was punishment enough.

< p class="paragraph">Prosecutors had sought a 25-year sentence.

“This case sends a clear message: we will hold accountable anyone who tries to steal American trade secrets,” he said. Kenneth Parker, attorney for the southern district of Ohio, in a statement. A message was left for Xu's lawyers seeking comment.

The government alleged that beginning in December 2013, Xu recruited experts working at aviation companies, including < b>GE Aviation in Cincinnati.

Federal prosecutors described Xu as deputy division head at China's Ministry of State Security, the intelligence and security agency of the country. In that role, he and others paid stipends for experts to travel to China under the guise of giving a presentation at the university, the government said.

Specifically, the government accused Xu of attempting to steal technology related to GE Aviation's composite aircraft engine fan, not duplicated by other companies, to benefit the Chinese government.

A Chinese citizen was sentenced in the US to 20 years in prison for economic espionage

File photo of a GE Aviation engine (EuropaPress)

Xu, 42, was arrested in Belgium in 2018 after traveling there to meet a GE employee in Europe on business – the government says the employee was not charged – and was later extradited to the United States. .

Xu was charged with conspiring and attempting to commit economic espionage and theft of trade secrets and was convicted last year of all the charges after a two-week trial.

Xu's sentence should reflect his activity and efforts on behalf of China, the prosecution argued in a brief filed on November 8.

“The sentence should promote respect for the rule of law among the countless employees with access to US corporate trade secrets, but also among foreign governments seeking to convert such information,” they wrote.