It is a curious story of Chinese espionage, involving a veteran former diplomat, who agitates European diplomatic circles. A case which illustrates the ambient excitement of the 27 faced with the supposed threat of Beijing at a time when the United States multiplies the security warnings against the cooperation of several European countries with Chinese companies, like Huawei.
On Wednesday January 15, German police conducted several simultaneous searches of the homes and offices of a former European diplomat and two other people. Authorities quickly reported that the operation was the culmination of a year-long investigation into whether the three suspects were acting as spies on behalf of China's main agency, State Security Chinese intelligence.
A big stir in Brussels
The German counterintelligence service was reportedly warned in 2018 against the actions of the ex-diplomat, accused of having provided Beijing with economic and information about European administration personnel.
Revelations that caused a stir in Brussels, says the Washington Post. "It is obvious that the Chinese intelligence services have strengthened their presence in Europe, but there has never been a spy investigation involving a European diplomat before," said the American daily Philippe Le Corre, author of "L ' Chinese offensive in Europe ”. Europe is buzzing with rumors of Chinese espionage, but evidence has always been lacking, the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung adds.
The subject is particularly sensitive in Brussels where the question of the growing influence of China in Europe comes up regularly on the carpet. The EU had thus coldly welcomed, in March 2019, Italy's decision to collaborate in the new “Silk Roads”, the gigantic Chinese investment program. Huawei's seduction operation, suspected of collaborating closely with the Chinese Ministry of the Army, with countries such as the United Kingdom and Germany to build 5G networks there also draws criticism within the EU.
Recruit of choice for Beijing
The enthusiasm for this spy case only increased when the South China Morning Post and the Washington Post revealed, Friday, January 17, the alleged identity of the suspect. He is said to be a German national who also has Hungarian nationality, according to several European officials interviewed on condition of anonymity by the two newspapers. A recruit of choice for the Chinese intelligence services.
The man is said to be a veteran of the diplomatic scene, having occupied several prestigious positions and having an address book probably very well stocked. In particular, he was the European Ambassador to South Korea, and previously held the post of director of the South-East Asia and Pacific service of the European External Action Service, the equivalent of a ministry of Foreign affairs for the EU.
It was from 2017, when the suspect ended his diplomatic career to join an influential German lobbying firm, Eutop, that he was suspected of having started providing information to Beijing. He is also said to have recruited two other spies for China.
The suspect's lawyer assured German magazine Focus that there was no arrest warrant against his client. German investigators confirmed that there had been no arrest following the searches and that the investigation was still ongoing.
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