A Chinese national and businessman has admitted to illegally exporting more than $100,000 in U.S. marine technology to a Chinese military research institute.
Shuren Qin, a 44-year-old marine biologist and founder of LinkOcean Technologies, a company that sells oceanographic instruments, pleaded guilty in Boston federal court to one count of conspiracy to unlawfully export U.S. anti-submarine warfare devices to China’s Northwestern Polytechnical University (NWPU).
The military research institute, located in the northwestern Chinese city of Xi’an, works closely with the People’s Liberation Army on the advancement of its military capabilities, the U.S. Justice Department said.
Qin, who resides in Wellesley, Massachusetts, was arrested in June 2018. On April 28, he pleaded guilty to “one count of visa fraud; two counts of making false statements to law enforcement agents regarding his customers and the types of parts he caused to be exported from the United States to the People’s Republic of China (PRC); four counts of money laundering; and two counts of smuggling hydrophones from the U.S. to the PRC,” in addition to the unlawful exporting count.
From 2015 to 2016, Qin exported to China at least 60 hydrophones—devices that can be used to monitor sound underwater—prosecutors said.
Because of national security risks, the U.S. Commerce Department requires a company to obtain an export license in order to ship U.S. goods to NWPU. Prosecutors said that Qin exported the devices to China without obtaining such a license and purposely concealed from a U.S. supplier of hydrophones that NWPU was the recipient of the exported goods.
Prosecutors previously also accused Qin of exporting unmanned surface vehicles and robotic boats, alleging he had supplied $8 million in goods to Chinese government-controlled entities from 2015 to 2018.
He admitted to charges only concerning 60 hydrophones, worth $100,000. Under a plea deal, prosecutors agreed to recommend a prison sentence at the low end of the 87 to 108 months he faces under federal sentencing guidelines.
The plea was conditional, and Qin may still appeal a judge’s decision to not suppress evidence against him.
Qin’s attorney, William Kettlewell, had argued that his client wasn’t aware of how NWPU would use the exported goods. The university was also indicted, but never appeared in court.
Last week, former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) John Ratcliffe named the Chinese communist regime as the “greatest adversary” of the United States, saying that it’s capable of “challenging, and even supplanting the U.S. as the world’s superpower economically, militarily, and technologically.”
On April 13, the Office of the DNI released its annual threat assessment, describing the Chinese regime’s push for global power as the leading threat to U.S. national security.
Annie Wu and Reuters contributed to this report.