(STL.News) – Ge Songtao (50, Nanjing, People’s Republic of China) has pleaded guilty to conspiring to submit false export information through the federal government’s Automated Export System and to fraudulently export to China maritime raiding craft and engines, and attempting to fraudulently export that equipment in violation of U.S. law. Ge Songtao faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
According to the plea agreement, Ge Songtao was the chairman of Shanghai Breeze Technology Co. Ltd., a company headquartered in Shanghai, China. Beginning in 2018, he was interested in identifying a source of supply of U.S.-manufactured combat rubber raiding craft equipped with engines that can operate using gasoline, diesel fuel, or jet fuel. These vessels and multi-fuel engines are used by the U.S. military and can be operated after being launched from a submerged submarine or dropped into the ocean by an aircraft. No comparable engine is manufactured in China.
One of Ge Songtao’s U.S.-based employees, co-defendant Yang Yang, attempted to order seven of the raiding craft equipped with these engines from a U.S. manufacturer. When the U.S. manufacturer suggested that Yang Yang purchase cheaper gasoline-fueled engines, she insisted that she wanted to purchase the military-model multi-fuel engines. To induce the manufacturer to sell this equipment, Yang falsely represented that her customer was an entity called United Vision Limited in Hong Kong, rather than Shanghai Breeze Technology Co. in Shanghai. One of Yang’s Chinese co-workers had told her that American manufacturers would be more likely to sell to an entity in Hong Kong rather than one in mainland China. By misrepresenting what company was buying the equipment, and where it was located, Yang caused the entry of false information in the Department of Commerce’s Automated Export System in violation of federal law.
To facilitate the purchase of the raiding craft and engines, Ge Songtao arranged for the wire transfers to a separate company in Hong Kong, Belt Consulting Company Limited, which in turn wired over $110,000 to the U.S. manufacturer. He also coordinated plans to send an employee to Hong Kong to receive the raiding craft and engines and transship them to mainland China.
On September 15, 2020, Yang Yang pleaded guilty to the same two charges to which Ge Songtao has pleaded guilty. On August 13, 2020, co-defendant Zheng Yan pleaded guilty to conspiring to submit false export information and to fraudulently export the raiding craft and engines in violation of U.S. law. The trial of remaining co-defendant Fan Yang, is scheduled to begin on February 1, 2021.
“As FBI Director Christopher Wray has stated previously, we will not tolerate it when China violates our criminal laws and international norms, much less enable it,” said Rachel L. Rojas, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Jacksonville Division. “FBI Jacksonville and our partners throughout the U.S. government will continue working to hold China accountable and protect our nation’s innovation, ideas, and way of life.”
“Ge Songtao’s attempts to illegally acquire sensitive U.S. technology for illicit purposes threatened the operational readiness and safety of our nation’s military,” said Special Agent in Charge Thomas Cannizzo of the NCIS Southeast Field Office. “NCIS and our law enforcement partners remain committed to preserving Department of the Navy warfighter superiority by protecting our nation’s critical technologies and infrastructure from theft or compromise at home and abroad.”
“A top priority of the Bureau of Industry and Security, Office of Export Enforcement, is ensuring that the United States military always maintains its qualitative edge on the battlefield by preventing circumvention of U.S. export controls and export filing requirements,” said Acting Agent in Charge Alan Berkowitz. “In working with our law enforcement partners we disrupted Chinese illicit procurement of U.S. military combat raiding craft and protected our strategic commodities from falling into the wrong hands.”
This case was investigated by the FBI, the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the U.S. Department of Commerce – Bureau of Industry and Security, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael J. Coolican and Heather Schmidt, Senior Trial Attorney, Counterintelligence and Export Section, U.S. Department of Justice.