FBI worker admits being agent of China for ‘financial benefit’

New York court told Kun Shan Chun passed ‘sensitive information’ to Chinese associates

Kun Shan Chun, an FBI employee who pleaded guilty in federal court to having acted as an agent of the Chinese government, is pictured in New York City. Photograph: Nate Raymond/Reuters.

Kun Shan Chun, an FBI employee who pleaded guilty in federal court to having acted as an agent of the Chinese government, is pictured in New York City. Photograph: Nate Raymond/Reuters.

 

A longtime employee of the FBI has pleaded guilty to acting as an agent of the Chinese government, US authorities say.

The government charged that the FBI employee, Kun Shan Chun, had “expressed a willingness to facilitate the passage of sensitive United States government information” to his Chinese associates, including individuals with connections to the Chinese government.

US federal prosecutors said Mr Chun had also lied to the bureau regarding his contact with these Chinese nationals and a firm based in China, Zhuhai Kolion Technology Co, “as part of a long-standing and concerted effort to conceal these relationships.”

Mr Chun, who is known as Joey and worked in the bureau’s New York office, pleaded guilty before Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV of US District Court in Manhattan to one count of acting in the US as an agent of China.

The charge carries a maximum prison term of 10 years, but the government and the defence agreed a sentence of 21-27 months would be appropriate, according to Mr Chun’s plea agreement.

‘Sensitive information’

Mr Chun later told Judge Francis that his conduct had included “passing sensitive information” to a Chinese government official “on multiple occasions”.

“At the time I knew what I was doing was wrong, and I am sorry for my actions,” Mr Chun said.

The government said that since at least 2006, Mr Chun and some of his relatives had relationships with Chinese nationals purporting to be affiliated with Kolion, and they had asked him to carry out research and consulting tasks in the United States.

While on a trip to Europe in 2011, Mr Chun met a Chinese government official, who asked him questions about “sensitive, non-public FBI information,” the government said. Among other things, the government added that Mr Chun disclosed the identity and potential travel plans of an FBI agent.

In court, Emil J. Bove III, a prosecutor, said that when the official asked Mr Chun for information about the FBI’s internal structure, he downloaded an FBI organisational chart, removed the names of bureau personnel and sent it to the official in China.

According to the office of Preet Bharara, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, the Chinese official also asked Chun for information about technology used at the FBI.

In January 2015, Chun took photographs of documents displayed in a restricted area of the bureau’s New York office, prosecutors said, that “summarised sensitive details regarding multiple surveillance technologies” used by the agency. Mr Chun also sent those photographs to the Chinese official, the government said.

‘Financial benefit’

Mr Bove said in court that Mr Chun had said he was “motivated in part by financial benefit.” A criminal complaint shows that Mr Chun, who is in his mid-40s, had been charged with four counts, including making false statements in a written questionnaire submitted to the FBI in connection with an investigation related to his security clearance.

In a statement, Mr Chun’s federal public defender, Jonathan Marvinny, said: “Today Joey Chun accepted responsibility for some mistakes in judgment that he deeply regrets. The truth is that Mr. Chun loves the United States and never intended to cause it any harm. He hopes to put this matter behind him and move forward with his life.”

Mr Chun was born in Guangdong, China, around 1969, entered the United States around 1980 and became a naturalized US citizen in 1985, according to the complaint. He had worked at the FBI’s New York field office as an electronics technician, and was granted a “top secret” security clearance in 1998.

New York Times