Man arrested over suspected plot to pass British military secrets to China

Lizzie Dearden
The feared plot is alleged to concern information on the UK’s new F-35 stealth jets: Getty

A former Rolls-Royce employee has been arrested under the Official Secrets Act over an alleged plot to pass military secrets to China.

Counter-terror police detained the man, who is in his 70s, in Derbyshire on Tuesday and later released him under investigation.

A spokesperson for Scotland Yard confirmed he worked “within private industry” and added: “Police officers executed a search warrant at an address in the West Midlands, which is now complete. A search at an address in Derbyshire is ongoing.”

Police said they could not confirm details of the allegations due to the classified nature of the investigation, but The Sun reported that they concerned fears classified information about Britain’s new multi-million-pound F-35 stealth fighter jets may have been passed to Beijing.

Rolls-Royce was one of several UK companies with contracts to produce parts of the jet, which touched down at RAF Marham in Norfolk for the first time last week.

The chief of the air staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, described the F-35 as “the future of our air power for decades to come”.

Rolls-Royce is among the world’s largest defence contractors and makes military aircraft engines for planes including the Eurofighter Typhoon.

When asked about the investigation during a media call on the company’s current restructure, chief executive Warren East said: “That’s an ongoing investigation and therefore I can’t comment.”

Additional reporting by PA