Former U.S. Ambassador and National Security Council Official Charged with Secretly Acting as an Agent of the Cuban Government
A two-count indictment was unsealed today in the Eastern District of Tennessee charging Szuhsiung Ho, aka Allen Ho, a citizen of the United States; China General Nuclear Power Company (CGNPC), formerly known as the China Guangdong Nuclear Power Company and Energy Technology International (ETI) for conspiracy to unlawfully engage and participate in the production and development of special nuclear material outside the United States, without the required authorization from the U.S. Department of Energy. This authorization is required by U.S. law and is robustly observed through frequent legal U.S.-China civil nuclear cooperation. Ho was also charged with conspiracy to act in the United States as an agent of a foreign government.
The announcement was made by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, Acting U.S. Attorney Nancy Stallard Harr of the Eastern District of Tennessee and Executive Assistant Director Michael Steinbach of the FBI’s National Security Branch.
“Allen Ho, at the direction of a Chinese state-owned nuclear power company allegedly approached and enlisted U.S. based nuclear experts to provide integral assistance in developing and producing special nuclear material in China,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “Ho did so without registering with the Department of Justice as an agent of a foreign nation or authorization from the U.S. Department of Energy. Prosecuting those who seek to evade U.S. law by attaining sensitive nuclear technology for foreign nations is a top priority for the National Security Division.”
“The prosecution of individuals who potentially endanger our U.S. citizens by violating laws enacted to ensure our national security, has been and will remain a priority for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in eastern Tennessee,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Harr.
“The arrest and indictment in this case send an important message to the U.S. nuclear community that foreign entities want the information you possess,” said Executive Assistant Director Steinbach. “The federal government has regulations in place to oversee civil nuclear cooperation, and if those authorities are circumvented, this can result in significant damage to our national security. The U.S. will use all of its law enforcement tools to stop those who try to steal U.S. nuclear technology and expertise.”
According to the indictment, Ho is a nuclear engineer employed by CGNPC as a senior advisor and is also the owner and president of ETI. Born in China, he is a naturalized U.S. citizen with dual residency in Delaware and China. CGNPC, which is owned by China’s State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council, is the largest nuclear power company in China and specializes in the development and manufacture of nuclear reactors. ETI is a Delaware corporation headquartered in Ho’s home in Wilmington, Delaware.
According to allegations in the indictment, which was returned on April 5, 2016, beginning in 1997 and continuing through April 2016, Ho, CGNPC and ETI allegedly conspired with others to engage and participate in the development and production of special nuclear material in China, with the intent to secure an advantage to China and without specific authorization to do so from the U.S. Secretary of Energy, as required by law. In particular, the defendants allegedly sought technical assistance related to, among other things, CGNPC's Small Modular Reactor Program; CGNPC's Advanced Fuel Assembly Program; CGNPC's Fixed In-Core Detector System; and verification and validation of nuclear reactor-related computer codes.
The indictment further alleges that Ho, under the direction of CGNPC, identified, recruited and executed contracts with U.S.-based experts from the civil nuclear industry who provided technical assistance related to the development and production of special nuclear material for CGNPC in China. Ho and CGNPC also allegedly facilitated the travel to China and payments to the U.S.-based experts in exchange for their services.
The indictment further alleges that during this same period of time, Ho conspired with others to knowingly act as an agent of China without prior notification to the Attorney General, as required by law. On or about Oct. 4, 2009, Ho allegedly told experts who he was attempting to recruit that, “China has the budget to spend,” and that he needed assistance so that, “China will be able to design their Nuclear Instrumentation System independently and manufactur[e] them independently after the project is complete.” In further correspondence with nuclear experts in the United States, Ho made clear that he was charged with obtaining necessary expertise from the United States at the direction of the CGNPC and the China Nuclear Power Technology Research Institute, a subsidiary of CGNPC, and that he was to do so surreptitiously.
If convicted, the charge of conspiracy to unlawfully engage and participate in the production and development of special nuclear material outside the United States carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $250,000 fine. The charge of conspiring to act in the United States as an agent of a foreign government carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison along with fines and supervised release.
The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The case is being investigated by the FBI, the Tennessee Valley Authority-Office of the Inspector General, the Department of Energy-National Nuclear Security Administration and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations, with assistance from other agencies. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles E. Atchley Jr. of the Eastern District of Tennessee and Trial Attorney Casey T. Arrowood of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.