A former federal scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) has been charged with fraud and breach of trust for allegedly covertly working for a Chinese university while employed by the Canadian government.
The RCMP issued a statement on Dec. 10 saying Yantai Gan, 65, was arrested on Nov. 9, 2019, at AAFC’s facility in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, following an investigation led by the force’s National Security Enforcement Section.
The statement said Gan, a crop scientist, was charged with breach of trust by a public officer, fraud of over $5,000, and possession of proceeds from a crime over $5,000.
The RCMP only now made Gan’s arrest public, ahead of his appearance at a Swift Current court on Dec. 13. No further details of Gan’s offences were provided as the case is before the courts.
However, according to a charging document released earlier this year, the RCMP allege that Gan, who began working for AAFC in 1999, failed to disclose to his employer that he had worked for the Gansu Agricultural University (GAU) in China’s northwestern city of Lanzhou, the Globe and Mail reports.
Gan signed a one-year contract with the university starting June 1, 2012, where he was tasked with work such as developing talent and publishing in journals, according to an affidavit sworn by RCMP Constable Cody Thompson, the Globe reported.
Gan was entitled to a salary of roughly $130,000 to $150,000 a year, along with perks such as a housing allowance. During that period, he continued to receive his AAFC salary, along with a $34,000 living allowance from the federal agency.
The RCMP allege that Gan did not disclose his contract with GAU or his salary to the AAFC, although the agency had granted him a one-year work transfer, allowing him to do research at the Chinese university as an AAFC employee.
Thompson said in the affidavit that in 2017, Gan used AAFC resources to reach out to over 20 agricultural scientists in other countries as part of assembling a research team for a project at the Gansu Agricultural University. According to the affidavit, the draft agreements sent to the scientists included offers of five-year appointments at GAU.
Thompson said in the affidavit that he had interviewed several of Gan’s superiors at the AAFC, who were concerned that the scientist was “inappropriately exchanging intellectual knowledge through his associations with GAU.”
The RCMP started investigating Gan in 2018, when the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada found some of his financial activities to be suspicious, including transfers from a bank in China to his accounts in Canada, according to the Globe.
In addition to his ties with the Chinese university, the RCMP allege Gan failed to disclose his work with the pasta company Barilla America, which paid him roughly $24,000 for a 2014 contract, which Gan also concealed from the AAFC.
The Globe reported that one of Gan’s superiors at the AAFC said in the affidavit that the money he allegedly received from outside sources “would make it appear he is sharing information, expertise, material, or outputs” without the knowledge of the agency.
Gan is not the only case in which a Canadian federal employee has been charged for illegal activities in relation to companies or entities in China.
On Dec. 8, the RCMP charged Wanping Zheng, a former engineer at the Canadian Space Agency, with breach of trust for acting outside of his duties at the federal agency in an effort to help a Chinese aerospace company negotiate a deal with Iceland on installing satellite station facilities.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service has repeatedly warned about espionage activities by foreign actors, particularly China and Russia.
In recent years, Canada’s allies have also become increasingly concerned about China stealing critical government or commercial intelligence through compromised professionals, such as those recruited by the communist regime’s Thousand Talents Plan, a state-run program aimed at attracting global experts to China to obtain cutting-edge technologies developed by foreign countries.