Tue, Nov 29, 2005 - Page 7 News List

FBI official set to testify in alleged Chinese spy case

EXPLANATION The official was expected to say why the government has so far filed only one charge against three suspected Chinese spies


The case against three alleged Chinese agents was set to return to court yesterday with testimony from an FBI official that could help explain why the government has filed only one criminal charge despite making sweeping claims of conspiracy and theft.

Chinese-American engineer Chi Mak, his wife, Rebecca Laiwah Chiu, and brother Tai Wang Mak pleaded not guilty last Tuesday to charges that they were unregistered agents for China.

Each was indicted on a single count even though an affidavit submitted last month by FBI Special Agent James Gaylord alleged they had committed crimes ranging from stealing government property to conspiracy.

The initial accusations carried a maximum combined sentence of 25 years; the most recent counts could bring 10 years at most.


Yesterday, Gaylord was expected to come under questioning from Tai Wang Mak's defense attorney, who is challenging the government's move to deny his client bond. Prosecutors also will argue their appeal against the court's decision to set bond at US$300,000 for Chi Mak, who remains in custody.

Investigators allege that Chi Mak, 65, took computer disks from Anaheim-based defense contractor Power Paragon, where he worked on a sensitive research project involving propulsion systems for Navy warships.

He and his wife allegedly copied the information to CDs, encrypted the files and delivered them to 56-year-old Tai Wang Mak, who was scheduled to fly to Hong Kong on Oct. 28 before heading to Guangzhou, China.

The younger Mak and his wife, Fuk Heung Li, were arrested at Los Angeles International Airport as they prepared to board a plane. The CD was found in Li's luggage, authorities said.

Prosecutors have held off on more serious charges -- espionage, for example -- partly because the military data in question were highly sensitive but not classified.

Gaylord, a counterintelligence agent, has stated in court documents that Chi Mak admitted feeding information on Navy research to China since 1983, fully aware that it was sensitive and subject to export laws. Mak hoped it would help the Chinese government develop similar technology, Gaylord claimed.

Mak's attorney, Ronald Kaye, accused the government of mischaracterizing his client's statements and compared the case to recent Chinese spy trials that eventually collapsed.

"Why should the public accept the government's characterization of the evidence when it's been shown they'll prosecute these cases with any means necessary?" Kaye asked.

He noted that Mak, who worked in Hong Kong for Hong Kong Electric before emigrating in 1978, has no criminal record.

Restricted documents

Investigators have said they recovered restricted documents on the DDX Destroyer, an advanced technology warship, that were marked "for official use only." Officials also allegedly found two lists in Chinese asking Chi Mak for documents about submarine torpedoes and other technology.

According to Gaylord, Chi Mak told investigators that his brother was giving the information to a researcher at the Chinese Center for Asia Pacific Studies at Zhongshan University in Guangzhou.

Authorities say the center conducts operations research for and receives funding from the People's Liberation Army. The researcher -- Pu Pei-Liang, also known as David Pu -- was believed to work for the government.

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