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National Security & Defense

DOJ Urges Federal Prosecutors to ‘Focus Their Resources’ on Pursuing Chinese Intellectual Property Cases

John Demers, the assistant attorney general for national security, at a DOJ news conference on November 1, 2018 (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The Justice Department is urging federal prosecutors across the country to focus on investigating and bringing cases related to Chinese efforts to steal American intellectual property.

John Demers, the DOJ’s assistant attorney general for national security, said the DOJ is looking for all 94 U.S. attorneys to bring cases related to the so-called China Initiative, which began in 2018 under then-attorney general Jeff Sessions. 

“These cases take time, they sometimes involve classified evidence, which can complicate both the investigation and later the prosecution and how you charge the case,” Demers told Politico. “But we wanted to signal to the U.S. attorneys that we understood that, and nonetheless we wanted them to focus their resources on this and that we were going to approve these charges and we wanted them to move forward.”

In January, the Justice Department charged China’s largest smartphone maker, Huawei Technologies Co., an $8.4 billion firm protected by China’s Communist party, with a laundry list of crimes including conspiracy, money laundering, bank and wire fraud, flouting U.S. sanctions on Iran, and obstruction of justice.

Meanwhile, cases have appeared around the country, especially at universities, against academics who fail to disclose or lie about foreign government funding in their applications for grants from the U.S. government.

Last month, former West Virginia University professor Dr. James Patrick Lewis pled guilty to fraud after entering into a contract with China to work on the country’s Thousand Talents Plan, which is designed to attract and recruit scientific talent to bolster Chinese interests.

The DOJ in February also charged four Chinese military hackers with conducting a cyberattack against credit reporting agency Equifax that stole the information of 150 million Americans.

“They’ve made it clear: If they can’t develop it, they’re going to steal it,” said Jay Town, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, a member of the DOJ’s China Initiative.

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