BERLIN: German prosecutors began an international investigation into an alleged Chinese spy network focused on three German citizens, including a former senior diplomat.
The three individuals, which prosecutors did not identify, have not been charged, according to a spokesman for the prosecutor in charge of the investigation.
The spokesman said investigators suspect the three transmitted confidential information, including business data, to Chinese manipulators.
German security officials have warned of a recent increase in Chinese espionage activities focused on industrial and commercial secrets, military technology and intelligence, and Chinese dissidents abroad.
Germany’s national intelligence service warned in its annual report last year that, in addition to carrying out cyber attacks, the Chinese authorities have used agents posing as diplomats to recruit Germans, often under the pretext of economic exchanges or scientists, to take them to China and try to recruit them as spies.
Still, investigations and prosecutions, especially with German citizens, have been rare, which makes this investigation remarkable.
The investigation focuses on the co-director of a German lobbying firm with offices in China that previously worked as a senior diplomat, including ambassadorial positions, according to people familiar with the case.
A lawyer from the lobbying firm, which has not been identified by prosecutors, declined to comment.
The spokesman for the German prosecutor in charge of the investigation refused to confirm the identity of the suspects and, according to German privacy laws, the authorities or the media cannot reveal their names.
The officials of the Chinese Embassy in Berlin could not be reached for comment.
Police searched the offices and private residences of the three suspects in the early hours of Wednesday in Germany and Belgium, where agents obtained potential evidence, including computer units, according to the prosecutor’s spokesman.
The German research was previously reported by the German magazine Spiegel.
Write to Bojan Pancevski at [email protected]
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