Former CIA officer arrested and charged with spying for China

Published by REUTERS.COM

Summary generated on August 17, 2020

    WASHINGTON - A former Central Intelligence Agency officer was arrested and charged with spying for China in a scheme that involved a relative who had also worked for the CIA, the U.S. Justice Department said on Monday.

    It said in a statement that Alexander Yuk Ching Ma was arrested on Friday on a charge that he conspired with a relative, also a former CIA officer, to communicate classified information to Chinese intelligence officials.

    A naturalized American citizen, Ma started working for the CIA in 1982, holding a Top Secret security clearance, according to investigators.

    Prosecutors said Ma left the CIA in 1989 and lived and worked in Shanghai, China, before arriving in Hawaii in 2001.

    Court documents allege that Ma and his relative conspired with Chinese spies to share U.S. classified defense information over a decade.

    Prosecutors said the scheme began with three days of meetings in Hong Kong in March 2001, during which the two former CIA officers provided information to the foreign intelligence service about the agency's personnel, operations and methods of concealing communications.

    Prosecutors said some of the meeting was recorded on videotape, including a portion in which Ma can be seen counting $50,000 in cash he received for secrets.

    Court documents say that after Ma moved to Hawaii, he sought employment with the FBI to regain access to U.S. government secrets that he could then turn over to Chinese spy handlers.

    The FBI's Honolulu office hired Ma as a contract linguist in 2004.

    Investigators said that over the next six years, he regularly copied, photographed and stole official documents, including some marked "Secret," and took some of them with him on frequent trips to China.

    Federal court records in Honolulu on Monday did not list a defense lawyer for Ma. The CIA and FBI did not immediately reply when asked why it took so long to arrest him.