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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Mother, son charged over plot to smuggle US Navy data to China

LOS ANGELES(AFP): A mother and her son were charged Wednesday with acting as agents for Beijing, bringing to five the number of people implicated in a plot to steal sensitive US Navy warship technology and smuggle it to China.

Fuk Heung Li, 48, and her son, Billy Yui Mak, 26, were also charged with making false statements to federal authorities, the Justice Department said in a statement.

Yui Mak was arrested in Alhambra, California, east of Los Angeles, after an indictment was returned by a federal grand jury. His mother, who was previously indicted on federal marriage fraud charges and is free on bond, will be summoned to appear for an arraignment on July 3.

The pair was added to an indictment that also charged three other people with acting as agents for the Beijing government without being registered to do so.

Last month, however, prosecutors said they would seek more serious charges against Chinese-born engineer Mak Chi, 65, who worked for a US defense contractor, his wife, Rebecca Chiu Lai-wah, 62; and Mak's brother, former television director Mak Tai-wing, 56.

Mak Tai-wing, who is in custody awaiting trial in November, is the husband of Fuk Heung Li and father of Billy Yui Mak.

Mak Tai-wing and Fuk Heung Li were arrested at the Los Angeles airport in October as they tried to board a flight to China with a CD-ROM allegedly containing technical information about the US Navy's current and future warship technologies, the Justice Department said.

Mak Chi and Rebecca Chiu were arrested at their home.

Mak Chi, an engineer with US military contractor Power Paragon, allegedly collected the sensitive information and, with his wife, copied it into CD-ROM disks, the department said. The disks were given to Mak Tai-wing.

"Billy Mak then allegedly encrypted the defense data onto a CD-ROM disk in preparation for surreptitious delivery to the PRC (People's Republic of China)," it said.

Fuk Heung Li and her son were charged with making false statements to the federal agents and Navy investigators regarding their knowledge of the encrypted disk seized at the airport, the department said.

The suspects face up to 10 years in prison on the charge of failing to register as a foreign agent and up to five years on the false statement charges.
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