Larry Wu-tai Chin, the retired CIA analyst accused of spying for China for 33 years, turned over secrets on the West’s assessment of China’s strategic, military, economic, scientific and technical capabilities and intentions, a federal grand jury charged Thursday.
In a new indictment that was far more detailed than the original charges made public Nov. 26, Chin also was accused of six counts of filing false income tax returns by failing to report his alleged spy earnings and of five counts of violating the law requiring him to disclose foreign bank accounts.
Conviction on the bank account charges alone could lead to fines of as much as $2.5 million, enabling the government to more than recover the gains Chin is alleged to have realized from his espionage career.
Money Deposits Alleged
According to the new charges, which reflect information gathered from “overt and covert sources” by the CIA, more than $192,000 in gold and in American and Hong Kong currency was deposited in Chin’s Hong Kong bank accounts from December, 1978, through June, 1983.
The figure, determined after inspection of Hong Kong bank records, amounts to $50,000 more than was charged in the original indictment, which was based on statements that Chin allegedly made to FBI agents after they confronted him. Chin’s lawyer is seeking to have these alleged statements suppressed.
The grand jury also charged that Chin gained access to the information he passed to Chinese agents because of his employment as a translator and analyzer of classified documents for the Foreign Broadcast Information Service, a division of the CIA that monitors foreign broadcasting and news media. It also provides translation services for other CIA components.
In addition, the grand jury charged, Chin “was involved in and aware of the West’s intelligence requirements regarding the People’s Republic of China” and assignments that the CIA made to obtain that intelligence.
Served After Retirement
From 1971 to 1981, when he retired, Chin had access to “classified material at all levels, including secret and above,” the indictment said. After retiring and until his arrest in November, Chin served as a contractor for an arm of the Foreign Broadcast Information Service and maintained contacts there, according to the charges.
On Sept. 17, 1983, during one of several trips Chin allegedly made to Hong Kong to meet with Chinese agents, he named a co-worker at the Foreign Broadcast Information Service whom he “believed to be susceptible to recruitment” by the Chinese intelligence agency, the grand jury charged.
The U.S. investigation of Chin began three months later. It was not clear whether the employee was approached by the Chinese and notified U.S. authorities or whether FBI counterintelligence learned of Chin through other means.
Traced Back to 1952
The indictment traced Chin’s alleged spying back to 1952 when, as a translator for the U.S. Army liaison mission and U.S. consulate in Hong Kong, he provided information on the location of Chinese prisoners during the Korean War and on information that American and South Korean intelligence agents were seeking from the prisoners. Chin allegedly received $2,000 for that information.