The United States on Tuesday announced charges in five cases involving alleged efforts to steal technology to benefit China, Russia and Iran including a former Apple Inc engineer and a Greek businessman.
The cases detailed at a Justice Department press conference centered on allegations concerning the theft of trade secrets and other technology. Two of the cases involved what US officials called procurement networks created to help Russia’s military and intelligence services obtain sensitive technology.
The five cases were the first announced by a US “strike force” formed in February in part to protect sensitive technologies, though the investigations began before it was created.
“We stand vigilant in enforcing US laws to stop the flow of sensitive technologies to our foreign adversaries,” Matt Olsen, the head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, told reporters. “We are committed to doing all we can to prevent these advanced tools from falling into the hands of foreign adversaries.”
The former Apple engineer, identified as 35-year-old Weibao Wang, formerly resided in Mountain View, California, and was hired by Apple in 2016, according to an April indictment unsealed on Tuesday.
Apple declined to comment on the case, notes Reuters.
Video: US Justice Department
Prosecutors in New York also charged Greek businessman Nikolaos “Nikos” Bogonikolos, 59, with smuggling US-origin military technologies to Russia while he was operating as a defense contractor for NATO.
Bogonikolos, a Greek national, was arrested in Paris, France on May 9, 2023 and remains in custody pending the resolution of extradition proceedings, the US Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
“As alleged, while ostensibly operating as a defense contractor for NATO and other ally countries, the defendant and his Aratos Group were double dealing, helping to fuel Russia’s war effort and their development of next generation weapons,” United States Attorney Breon Peace said. “Our Office continues to work tirelessly to ensure that disruptive technologies do not fall into the wrong hands.”
“As alleged, Bogonikolos conspired with a network of companies orchestrated by the Russian intelligence services to fraudulently acquire and then smuggle US-origin military and dual-use technologies to aid the Russian defense and security sectors. Bogonikolos procured sensitive equipment meeting NATO specifications designed for tactical battlefield conditions as well as components with applications in space-based and cryptographic communications, on behalf of his Russian intelligence handlers seeking to improve their country’s warfighting capabilities. This case highlights the FBI’s commitment to keeping critical technologies away from America’s adversaries, and dismantling the criminal networks complicit in Russia’s war of aggression,” FBI Assistant Director in Charge Driscoll said.
“As alleged, the defendant and his company not only violated US law, but further assisted Russia’s illegal war of aggression to include the development of disruptive technologies,” said BIS Special Agent-in-Charge Carson.
In a second case related to China, US prosecutors announced charges against Liming Li, 64, of Rancho Cucamonga, California, for allegedly stealing trade secrets from his California-based employers to build his own competing business in China.
Russian nationals Oleg Sergeyevich Patsulya and Vasilii Sergeyevich Besedin were each charged in Arizona for allegedly using their Florida-based company to send aircraft parts to Russian airline companies, while the Commerce Department in a parallel action suspended their export privileges.
In addition, prosecutors in New York announced charges against Xiangjiang Qiao, also known as Joe Hansen, 39, for allegedly using a Chinese company that is the target of American sanctions to provide materials used in the production of weapons of mass destruction to Iran.
Qiao and Wang remain at large in China, while the other four defendants were arrested, US officials said.
Attorneys for Patsulya and Besedin, who were arrested on May 11, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. An attorney for Li did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Reuters could not determine who is representing Bogonikolos, Reuters stressed.