Two Taiwanese appeared in a US federal court in Newark, New Jersey, on Wednesday, charged with drug dealing and conspiring to illegally buy “sensitive defense articles” for Beijing.
According to an FBI statement, Hui Sheng-shen, 45, and Huan Ling-chang, 41, were trying to acquire military spy drones, E-2C Hawkeye surveillance airplanes and stealth technology relating to F-22 jets.
They did not make a plea and a trial date has not yet been set.
Shen, known as “Charlie,” and Chang, known as “Alice,” could be jailed for life if they are found guilty on all counts.
Shen told FBI agents he was a logistics expert and Chang said she was a school teacher.
Both of the accused have been in custody for nearly two months on charges of conspiring to import 50kg of crystal methamphetamine from Taiwan into the US.
However, the drug charges have now been amended and the pair are charged with selling 1kg of nearly pure crystal methamphetamine to undercover agents.
During their court appearance, the charges of illegally seeking to export sensitive US military technology to China were introduced for the first time.
Paul Fishman, US Attorney for the District of New Jersey, said that a drug trafficking operation and the alleged plot to export “some of America’s most sensitive weapons and related technology to China” came to light during an investigation into the importation of counterfeit goods from China.
“The charges against Shen and Chang illustrate starkly why we do this work and what is at stake when the security of our ports is breached for any reason,” Fishman said. “National security isn’t an a la carte enterprise. The same conduits that bring knockoff sneakers flood our communities with illegal drugs and establish dangerous criminal relationships.”
Court documents that were unsealed for the first time this week detail an alleged criminal enterprise with international links.
According to the FBI statement, the documents reveal that Soon Ah Kow, 72, of Hong Kong, was arrested in Manila in February for brokering international transactions of illegal goods.
Kow reportedly told undercover FBI agents that Shen and Chang represented wealthy narcotics dealers.
In September last year, Shen and Chang allegedly asked undercover agents if they could supply highly sensitive military technology, especially a Hawkeye reconnaissance aircraft.
The next month, at a meeting in Las Vegas, Shen and Chang allegedly provided an expanded list of military items they wanted to buy.
During a series of conversations and meetings, the defendants told the undercover agents that their associates were “connected to the Chinese government, working for a Chinese intelligence company, like the CIA” and would be “using government money to make the purchases.”
In February, the pair were arrested when they visited New York and allegedly photographed a small drone and military manuals provided by undercover agents.
Additional reporting by Reuters