TAIPEI — A Chinese national living in Florida was indicted on 18 counts of working as an illegal agent, conspiring to defraud the US, money laundering and the unlawful export of items used in unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV) to China.

The indictments were unsealed April 21 by the US Attorney Office in Middle District, Florida.

According to the allegations, Amin "Amy" Yu operated Florida-based IFour International Inc. from 2009 to 2014 and Ohio-based Amin International Inc. from 2002 to 2009 for the purpose of procuring equipment and systems for the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and Harbin Engineering University (HEU).

Before moving to the United States, Yu worked as a laboratory manager at HEU's Marine Control Equipment and System Research Division.

Allegedly, five co-conspirators worked with Yu to obtain a wide variety of items and most were in one way or another employees of HEU. Yu worked to secure equipment from companies based in Canada, Europe and the United States. Exported items were used in HEU and PLAN UUVs, remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROV), and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV).

According to the indictment, co-conspirator "A" worked as an agent for HEU and professor at the HEU College of Automation. At one time or another, "A" served as HEU's director of the Best Sea Assembly Institute and HEU's division director for the Marine Control Equipment and System Research Division. In 2002, "A" was appointed the chief technology expert of a key Chinese national research project for the development of UUVs.

According to HEU's website, the school has become the "main force of basic and applied ship research in science and technology in China, one of the key units of the Navy's [PLAN] development of advanced technology and equipment, and a developer of high-level marine technology in China."

Further, HEU has "focused on condensing its scientific research direction, improving the ability of independent innovation and committing to solve the national scientific and technology problems through the '973' plan [National Basic Research Program], and '863' plan [State High-Tech Development Plan], advanced defense research and scientific research projects based on the national defense strategy."

HEU students first participated in the International RoboSub Competition in 2011. The annual public student competition is run by the AUVSI Foundation, established by the Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International (AUVSI); the AUVSI Foundation is a nonprofit organization, not AUVSI). The goal of this competition is to advance the development of autonomous underwater vehicles by challenging a new generation of student engineers to perform realistic missions in a controlled underwater environment. Student teams develop their own AUVs using commercially available technology (nothing is provided by AUVSI). All information about the event, the teams and their vehicles/technology is publicly available.

Since 2011, HEU has sent a team, the "Aoming" ("North Sea Dragon King"), to compete in the annual International RoboSub Competition sponsored by the Office of Naval Research in conjunction with the nonprofit AUVSI Foundation.

The competition is hosted at the US Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems (SPAWAR) Transducer Evaluation Center in San Diego, California. The competition, according to the AUVSI website, is for the development of AUVs. The Aoming’s AUV, which is equipped with two cameras and a pinger, is capable of firing torpedoes and dropping markers, has two cameras and a pinger, according to the HEU website.

"The goal of this competition is to advance the development of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) by challenging a new generation of student engineers to perform realistic missions in a controlled underwater environment," said Daryl Davidson, executive director of AUVSI Foundation. "Student teams develop their own AUVs using commercially available technology (nothing is provided by AUVSI). All information about the event, the teams and their vehicles/technology is publicly available."

The indictment listed the following items:

  • Underwater acoustic locator devices, including an unidentified "power pinger."
  • Underwater cables and connectors, including AWQ/XSL and MSSK/MINL Marine Cables.
  • PC104 computer processing units for mission, motion and video guidance computers from a "Pennsylvania company."
  • 907 Multiplexers for digital signal transmission through fiber optics from a "Canadian company."
  • "Underwater pressor [sic] sensor, conductivity and temperature sensor" that included the "Mini CT" sensor and the "Mini IPS" sensor.
  • Control sticks and button strips, including the "HG-XX Control Stick Mechanism."

Yu did not respond to questions for this article.

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