According to a US Justice Department criminal complaint, since 2011, Fuyi “Frank” Sun had attempted to acquire Toray M60JB-3000-50B carbon fiber from an undercover entity created by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), an investigative arm of the US Department of Homeland Security.TAIPEI — The US government has arrested a Chinese national for allegedly attempting to export, without a license, high-grade carbon fiber used primarily in aerospace and military applications.
Sun allegedly instructed HSI undercover agents to use the term “banana” to refer to carbon fiber in their communications. On April 11, Sun traveled from China to New York to purchase the carbon fiber and told HSI agents that the fiber was for the Chinese military. Sun also told agents that he had worked in the Chinese missile program as an employee of the China National Space Administration in Shanghai and had a close relationship with the military, according to the charge sheet.
“Sun paid the undercover agents $23,000 in cash for the carbon fiber. He also paid an additional $2,000 to undercover agents as compensation for the risk he believed they were taking to illegally export the carbon fiber to China without a license,” the government document says.
The HSI undercover operation included the creation of a front company with an online “showroom” of various products for sale. The “UC company” was not identified, but government documents indicate the front is in New York City.
Sun allegedly suggested several third countries to make the transaction, including Australia, Belgium and South Korea. Sun described a prior transaction in which he had acquired carbon fiber from a Korean supplier and in order to defeat Korean export controls, Sun and the Korean company had arranged to intentionally mislabel the carbon fiber as “acrylic fiber,” which was difficult to visually distinguish from carbon fiber. Sun instructed the undercover agents to “destroy the barcodes on every bundle … they won’t be able to trace where the merchandise … is really coming from,” the documents say.
Andrea Stricker, senior policy analyst at the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, said the sting operation was a “positive event for preventing the proliferation of missile and military-grade carbon fiber and enforcing export controls.” She further said that carbon fiber with a rating at or above T300, M60 fiber, or M-fiber with a lower rating, can be used to make carbon fiber rotors for gas centrifuges. “This case shows that traffickers in China continue to operate unimpeded by government enforcement efforts and in some cases China directs their efforts.”
During prior communications with UC agents, Sun also expressed an interest in procuring Toray M55JB-6K carbon fiber from a “friend in the United States.”
The Justice Department announced Sun's arrest April 13.
Chinese traffickers have made numerous attempts over the years to acquire weapons-grade carbon fiber from the US.
In 2013, the US government sentenced Chinese national Ming Suan Zhang to 57 months for attempting to export carbon fiber. That US undercover operation was also conducted in New York. According to a US Justice Department news release, Zhang came to the attention of US government authorities after two Taiwanese buyers, acting on his behalf, attempted to procure several tons of carbon fiber, including Toray M60. Zhang stated it was for use in a “new fighter aircraft” being developed by China North Industries Corp. (NORINCO), which produces high-end military equipment.
Carbon fiber factored in the conviction of Chinese national Lisong Ma in 2014 for allegedly attempting to export “weapons-grade” Toray-type T800-HB12000-50B carbon fiber to China, according to US government documents. Ma received 46 months for procuring a sample of T800 from US undercover agents in New York and attempting to ship it Shanghai. Ma stated he would need 5 tons of the fiber.
The HSI Office of Terrorism and International Narcotics and Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Units is handling Sun’s prosecution.