A New York City police officer has been arrested on charges he was secretly working as an agent of the Chinese government.
Baimadajie Angwang, a community affairs liaison at the 111th Precinct in Queens and a member of the US Marine Corps Reserve, had for years been reporting back to “handlers” in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), according to a criminal complaint filed at a New York federal court.
Mr Angwang, 33, an ethnic Tibetan native of China and a naturalised American citizen, had allegedly been reporting back on the activities of fellow Tibetans in the US since 2014.
According to the charging documents filed on Monday, Mr Angwang also assessed potential Tibetan intelligence sources, and used his position in the New York Police Department (NYPD) to pass along information about its internal workings to the Chinese.
“The investigation has revealed that Angwang had used his official position in the NYPD to provide consulate officials access to senior (police) officials through invitations to official NYPD events,” the complaint said.
Since June 2018, the FBI said Mr Angwang has been "in frequent communication" with an unidentified Chinese consular official he referred to as "Boss."
That same year, he was awarded "Officer of the Month" by the NYPD for his initiative and public service.
Mr Angwang, who served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and holds a secret-level security clearance, was reportedly tasked with “neutralizing sources of potential opposition to the policies and authority of the PRC.”
Despite his family being Tibetan, a minority group long oppressed and occupied by Beijing, the FBI claims in the complaint that Mr Angwang’s affiliations with China ran deep. His father is a retired member of the People’s Liberation Army, while his mother is a retired government official and a member of the Chinese Communist Party.
Mr Angwang, who makes about $50,000 (£40,000) a year, in 2016 wired $100,000 to his brother’s account in China, according to investigators. The following month, he sent $50,000 to another account in China, held in someone else’s name.
He initially travelled to the US on a cultural exchange visa. He overstayed a second visa and eventually claimed asylum on the grounds he had been arrested and tortured in China, due partly to his TIbetan ethnicity.
In a detention memo filed on Monday, the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, said: “Angwang has travelled back to the PRC on numerous occasions since his asylum application was granted.
“These are not the actions of an individual who fears torture or persecution at the hands of the PRC, thus showing that his US citizenship was secured through false pretenses.”
Prosecutors asked a judge to deny bail because Mr Angwang “presents a serious risk of flight” and is facing criminal charges which hold a maximum possible prison sentence of 55 years.
Dermot Shea, NYPD Police Commissioner, said Mr Angwang had “violated every oath he took in this country," in a statement commenting on the charges. "One to the United States, another to the US Army, and a third to this Police Department.
“From the earliest stages of this investigation, the NYPD's Intelligence and Internal Affairs bureaus worked closely with the FBI's Counterintelligence Division to make sure this individual would be brought to justice."
John Carman, Mr Angwang’s lawyer, declined to comment on the case.