WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Chinese citizen has been charged with trying to illegally export to China high-grade carbon fiber used primarily in aerospace and military applications, the U.S. Justice Department said on Thursday.
Fuyi Sun, 52, was arrested on Wednesday after he traveled to obtain the fiber from people working as undercover U.S. law enforcement agents, the agency said.
Sun repeatedly told the agents that the fiber he wanted would go to the Chinese military, with which he said he had a close relationship, according to the court charges against him.
After allegedly paying tens of thousands of dollars for two cases of the fiber, Sun told the agents to ship the material in unmarked boxes, authorities said.
“The carbon fiber – which has many aerospace and defense applications – is strictly controlled, and Sun expressed a willingness to pay a premium to skirt U.S. export laws,” said Assistant Attorney General John Carlin.
The case underlines tensions between the United States and China over intellectual property rights. The FBI has said cases of economic espionage rose 53 percent in 2015, the majority of which involved Chinese nationals.
Sun is charged with attempting to violate and conspiracy to violate the International Economic Powers Act, each of which carries a maximum of 20 years in prison. He is also charged with attempting to smuggle goods from the United States, which carries a maximum of 10 years in prison. The case is being prosecuted in the Southern District of New York.
Reporting by Eric Beech and Julia Edwards; Editing by Eric Walsh and Peter Cooney