Chinese National Sentenced for Illegal Exports to Northwestern Polytechnical University

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BOSTON – A Chinese national was sentenced yesterday in federal court in Boston for illegally procuring and exporting more than $100,000 worth of U.S. origin goods to Northwestern Polytechnical University (NWPU), a Chinese military university that is heavily involved in military research and works closely with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on the advancement of its military capabilities.

Shuren Qin, 44, a Chinese national residing in Wellesley, who gained admittance into the United States through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program in 2014, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Denise Casper to two years in prison, to be followed by two years of supervised release. Qin was also ordered to pay a fine of $20,000 and will face deportation proceedings upon completion of his sentence.

On April 28, 2021, Qin pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to unlawfully export items from the United States to NWPU without first obtaining the required export licenses; one count of visa fraud; two counts of making false statements to law enforcement agents regarding his customers and the types of parts he caused to be exported from the United States to the People’s Republic of China (PRC); four counts of money laundering; and two counts of smuggling hydrophones from the U.S. to the PRC.

Qin established LinkOcean Technologies, LTD., which he used to import goods and technology with underwater and marine applications into the PRC from the United States, Canada and Europe. NWPU has been involved in the development of unmanned aerial vehicles, autonomous underwater vehicles and missile proliferation projects. Since 2001, the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) has designated NWPU on its Entity List for national security reasons. Between approximately July 2015 and December 2016, Qin caused at least 60 hydrophones (devices used to detect and monitor sound underwater) to be exported from the United States to NWPU without obtaining the required export licenses from the DOC. Qin and his company, LinkOcean, did so by concealing from the U.S. manufacturer of the hydrophones that NWPU was the true end-user and by causing false end-user information to be filed with the U.S. government. In addition, on four occasions in connection with the export of hydrophones to NWPU, Qin transferred more than $100,000 from Chinese bank accounts to bank accounts located in the United States with the intent to promote and facilitate his unlawful export scheme.

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Additionally, in July 2016, Qin engaged in visa fraud in connection with his application to remove conditions on his U.S. Permanent Resident Status by falsely certifying that he had not committed any crime for which he was not arrested since becoming a conditional permanent resident when, in fact, he had caused the illegal export of hydrophones from the United States to NWPU in December 2015.

Qin also made false statements to federal agents on two occasions regarding LinkOcean’s customers and its export activities. Specifically, during a November 2017 interview with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers, Qin falsely stated that he only exported instruments that attach to a buoy. However, Qin had exported and caused the export of remotely-operated side scan sonar systems, unmanned underwater vehicles, unmanned surface vehicles, robotic boats and hydrophones. The items that Qin concealed from CBP during this interview have military applications and several of these items were delivered to military end-users in China. For instance, Qin exported a U.S.-manufactured remotely-operated side scan sonar system to a PLA Troop in November 2015. On or about July 21, 2018, Qin lied to investigators during an interview when he stated that he did not have any customers on the DOC’s Entity List. In fact, Qin had at least two such customers – NWPU and the National University of Defense Technology (NUDT). NUDT is involved in national defense research for the PLA and responsible for modernizing the PRC’s armed forces. Since 2015, it has been designated on DOC’s Entity List.  

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Prior to entering his guilty plea in this case, Qin moved to suppress evidence seized from his laptop and iPhone and statements he made to CBP officers during a secondary inspection upon his return to the United States from the PRC at Logan Airport in November 2017. After eight days of evidentiary hearings, Judge Casper found that the “Chinese Navy” was one of Qin’s customers according to LinkOcean’s website. At the time of the search, agents testified that they were “concerned that Qin was involved [in] working on behalf of the Chinese Navy to procure items from the United States, export them to China so that they could be used or incorporated in systems the Chinese Navy or research institutes were developing to be used in electronic warfare, anti-submarine warfare.” Judge Casper further found that by the end of the summer of 2017, investigators had learned that Qin was interested in procuring both AUVs and sonobuoys, which raised concerns for the agents as they learned that Ultra Electronics was at that same time developing “an AUV that worked in conjunction with [a] sonobuoy … strictly for military use by the U.S. Navy.” Qin also lied when questioned about the types of parts he exported, concealing his “interest in procuring side scan sonar systems, AUVs and sonobuoys.”       

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Acting U.S. Attorney Mendell; Acting Assistant Attorney General Mark J. Lesko for the Justice Department’s National Security Division; Matthew B. Millhollin, Special Agent in Charge of the Homeland Security Investigation, Boston Field Office; Patrick Hegarty, Special Agent in Charge of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Northeast Field Office; William Higgins, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Commerce, Office of Export Enforcement, Boston Field Office; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division; and Michael Wiest, Special Agent in Charge of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Northeast Field Office made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney B. Stephanie Siegmann, Chief of Mendell’s National Security Unit, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Casey, also of National Security Unit, prosecuted the case.

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