Germany arrests trio accused of trying to smuggle naval military tech to China

Prosecutors believe one frikkin' laser did make its way to Beijing

Germany has arrested three citizens who allegedly tried to transfer military technology to China, a violation of the country's export rules.

The three individuals in question were not fully identified by the Federal Prosecutor's Office, which only gave their first names and the first initial of their last names, as per German law. Germany claims Thomas R is "strongly suspected" of being an agent or an employee of China's Ministry of State Security (MSS), while couple Herwig F and Ina F run a Düsseldorf-based biz that has connections with Germany's science community. The pair allegedly worked for the MSS since at least June 2022.

The German feds allege that Thomas R collected data on tech with military potential, via the company run by Herwig and Ina F. The Bundesanwaltschaft, the country's Federal Prosecutor's Office, said the arrest warrant claims the two made an agreement with a German university to prepare a study for what was ostensibly a Chinese company that was interested in machine parts.

However, the warrant alleges that behind the Chinese firm was Thomas R's handler and funds from China, and the machine parts could potentially be used for the kinds of engines found on military ships, an instance of dual-use tech (used for both military and civilian purposes) which is typically regulated. The suspects are accused of attempting to start more research projects that would have further assisted China's navy.

The Federal Prosecutor's Office makes no mention of whether the university or its faculty are accused of being implicated in the tech smuggling plot.

The tech smuggling suspects are also alleged to have sent a laser to China, which is similarly under dual-use regulations and presumably could have a military purpose. The three are suspected of receiving payment from the MSS to ship out the laser.

Transferring dual-use technology and equipment to China violates Germany's Foreign Trade Act as well as the EU dual use regulation, according to the Federal Prosecutor's Office. The feds didn't mention what kind of sentence the suspects could face if found guilty. The three are set to be brought before the Federal Court of Justice today and tomorrow.

China is no stranger to acquiring dual-use technology under the table, as much as the US and other Western countries try to prevent this. Not only can dual-use materials like computer chips and machine parts be useful to China's military, they can also be transferred to Chinese allies like Russia, which is what a US report last year alleged. ®

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