Monday, May 15, 2006

Federal prosecutors are expected to add new charges against several people in Los Angeles linked to a covert program to provide China with Navy defense technology and at least one will be charged with espionage, U.S. government officials said.

Defense contractor Chi Mak and his wife, Rebecca Laiwah Chiu, along with brother Tai Mak were arrested last year and charged with failing to register as Chinese government agents after a yearlong counterespionage probe.

Documents obtained after the Oct. 28 arrests provided investigators with new clues about the technology theft ring that included proprietary corporate information and embargoed defense technology related to Navy warships, officials said. Investigators think the spy ring passed the sensitive data to Beijing.

The charges, which will be made public as early as this week, will include a new indictment against Chi Mak, Tai Mak, Mrs. Chiu and a fourth Mak relative. All four will be charged with conspiracy to export defense articles and attempted unlawful export of defense articles.

Additionally, Chi Mak, an electrical engineer with the Los Angeles defense contractor Power Paragon, will be indicted on charges of unlawful export of defense articles and gathering defense information, an espionage charge, the officials said.

Chi Mak is thought to have supplied China with sensitive information about the electrical systems of U.S. warships and submarines, including details of the Virginia-class submarine, and information on a new electromagnetic catapult to launch jets from aircraft carriers.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles declined to comment, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Staples said in court last week that the government is expected to seek a new indictment in the case. He did not specify the new charges.

Senior Justice Department officials have approved the new charges, which prosecutors will announce in Los Angeles, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Chi, Tai and Rebecca Mak have pleaded not guilty to the original charges in the case.

“We presented evidence throughout this case that undermines the government’s conclusion that these individuals were involved in espionage,” Ronald Kaye, Chi Mak’s attorney, said in an interview. An attorney for Mrs. Chiu, Stanley Greenberg, said he is confident that his client will be found not guilty. An attorney for Tai Mak could not be reached for comment.

U.S. officials described Tai Mak, an engineer with Phoenix Television, as an intelligence courier for the Chinese military who was carrying an encrypted computer disk holding defense technology data when he was arrested.

Tai Mak also will be charged with aiding and abetting and possession of property to aid a foreign government. He and his wife were arrested at Los Angeles International Airport as they were about to fly to Hong Kong. Tai Mak was carrying an encrypted disk that FBI officials said contained data on a new technology for destroyers known as quiet electric drive.

Earlier charges that Chi Mak, Tai Mak and Rebecca Mak failed to register as Chinese government agents will be kept in the new indictment.

Chi and Tai Mak were born in Guangzhou, China.

The new charges were based on thousands of pages of documents found at the home of Chi Mak, officials said.

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