Two Chinese intelligence officers have been charged by the U.S. with attempting to bribe a U.S. government employee in Bitcoin to obstruct a criminal prosecution of a China-based telecommunications company.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on Monday that Guochun He and Zheng Wang allegedly orchestrated a scheme, including paying about US$61,000 worth of Bitcoin in total, to steal files from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York related to a federal investigation into a Chinese telecom company, according to court documents.
The legal document did not name the Chinese company, but CNN reported it was Huawei, citing a source familiar with the matter. Huawei did not respond to Forkast’s request for comment.
Both the defendants remain at large, the DOJ said.
Since 2019, He and Wang had directed a U.S. law enforcement officer, who was actually a double agent on behalf of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to try to steal confidential files to interfere with the prosecution of the Chinese company, according to the DOJ statement.
In a conversation between He and the FBI agent revealed in a deposition, He said Bitcoin is “easy to handle and safe” and later suggested the agent convert Bitcoin into cash at a gambling house.
In October 20221, He paid the agent approximately US$41,000 in Bitcoin, and in October 2022 paid another US$20,000 worth of Bitcoin, according to the court document.
Blockchain analytics firm Elliptic said on Monday that its analysis showed that the alleged Chinese spies used Wasabi Wallet to conceal their transaction trail. “All of the bribe payments can be traced back to Wasabi,” Elliptic said.
Wasabi Wallet is a type of privacy wallet that can be used to mix Bitcoin from different sources to hide their origin, and was used in high-profile hacks of Twitter and crypto exchanges Bitfinex and KuCoin, according to Elliptic.
Huawei was a leader in development of 5G cell phone networks until the U.S. and many of its allies banned use of its equipment in their telecommunication systems, citing the company’s links to the Chinese government as a national security concern.