Federal trial underway in aviation espionage case

CINCINNATI (AP) — The trial of a Chinese national charged with trying to steal trade secrets from multiple U.S. aviation and aerospace companies is underway in federal court in Cincinnati.

The government alleges that beginning in December 2013, Yanjun Xu recruited experts who worked at aviation companies, including GE Aviation in Cincinnati. They say Xu and others would pay stipends for the experts to travel to China under the guise of delivering a university presentation.

Court papers say Xu and other operatives discussed how they would obtain “highly sensitive information” from the experts.

Xu was charged with conspiring and attempting to commit economic espionage and theft of trade secrets. He has pleaded not guilty. His attorneys say he’s not a spy, never asked for trade secrets and the case involves the legal exchange of trade information.

Opening statements began Tuesday, with Judge Timothy Black closing the courtroom to the public and media. The judge told WCPO-TV there wasn’t enough space for the public “in light of the ongoing pandemic.” Audio of the trial is available in an overflow room.