Alleged spy pleads guilty

Former AU researcher Gao Zhan charged with espionage and tax fraud

Feature also includes a timeline of related legal affairs.

Gao held captive in China by Keith F. Shovlin

Former AU researcher Gao Zhan pleaded guilty to exporting technology to China in U.S. District Court Nov. 26. Gao, who is no longer with the University, had been held captive by China and charged with espionage from Feb. 11 to July 25, 2002.

"We're shocked and surprised by this," AU spokesman Todd Sedmak said. "I think there are many people that have the same thoughts and feelings about this recent information."

Gao was charged with exporting 80 MG80486 DX2-50 microprocessors she purchased under the name "Gail Heights" and shipping them to Nanjing, China. In Nanjing, the microprocessors were received by the Incom Import and Export Company, a subsidiary of the China National Electronics and Export Corporation, according to court documents. The microprocessors are listed on the Commerce Control List restricting their shipment overseas due to possible military applications. The court documents state the microprocessor is used, "on aircraft, where it can be employed in navigation, digital flight control and weapons fire control systems. This microprocessor can also perform target identification and discrimination functions in missiles, allowing the missile to home in on and destroy its target."

The sale of the microprocessors occurred around July 12, 2000, but the investigation only recently caught up with Gao. She was also charged with tax fraud over the more than $539,000 she had received for the technology. The investigation was delayed by Gao's detainment in China, according to the Washington Post.

In an interview with the Post, Gao defended herself, saying, "I am not an agent, nor a double agent, for any government. I'm just purely a scholar, a sociologist trying to bring my dreams to reality. It's that simple." Gao had been celebrating the Chinese New Year in China with her husband, Xue Donghua, and son, Andrew, when she was arrested for "engaging in activities damaging state security," according to the Foreign Ministry of China.

She was detained for 166 days before being officially charged as a spy for Taiwan by the Chinese Government. Increased diplomatic pressure from President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell helped to gain her release two days after being formally charged.

AU President Benjamin Ladner flew to China in April 2001, and pressed for information while on a trip planned before her detainment. After returning to the United States, Gao continued as a scholar-in-residence in the School of International Service. Her appointment ended in fall 2002, according to SIS Dean Louis Goodman. "I am very sad and disappointed after what I read in the paper," Goodman said. "She hasn't been on the faculty of the University since [September 2002]."

Gao's appointment was to research the role of women in China, Goodman said. As a researcher, Gao did not teach any courses at the University. "She came here in fall 2000," Sedmak said. "So she wasn't here very long before she was detained."

Gao's husband was sworn in as a U.S. citizen while she was detained but a ceremony to make swear her in was cancelled by the Immigration and Naturalization Service due to the impending investigation.

The Post and the Moscow newspaper Pravda suggested that the detainment was a cover-up to throw investigators off the case. Sedmak said that the University has no comment on those charges.

U.S. Attorney Patrick J. McNulty headed the investigation of Gao, who lives in McLean, Va. McNulty told the Post, "This is an important case and a serious matter involving national security."

Gao is scheduled to be sentenced March 5 and can face up to 13 years in prison. She is currently released on $50,000 bond.

Timeline of legal affairs

Former AU Researcher Gao Zhan has pleaded guilty and now faces sentencing. Here is a timeline of the investigation, detainment in China and current legal encounters:

July 2000: Gao Zahn's business, Technology Business Services (TBS), contracts to sell 80 microprocessors to Incom Import and Export Company.

July - August 2000: TBS orders 80 processors from Rochester Electronics.

Fall 2000: An electronics firm complains to U.S. government about the order. A person claiming to be a TBS employee says the parts were for research at a Virginia university. Gao is appointed as a scholar-in-residence in the School of International Service at AU.

September 2000: Gao receives the order in McLean. The processors are paid through a wire transfer from a Bank of America account under the name University Laboratories, which is controlled by Gao.

October 2000: The processors are shipped to the Nanjing Sunsea Industry Corp. The company is a research institute that develops radar systems for the Chinese military.

January 2001: Incom Import and Export pays $539,296 in a wire transfer to a Bank of America account controlled by Gao and her mother-in-law.

Feb. 11, 2001: Gao is detained by the Chinese Ministry of State Security at the Beijing airport while attempting to return to D.C.

March 8, 2001: Gao's husband and son leave China after being held for 26 days.

March 26, 2001: The Eagle reports on Gao's detention after a press conference held by AU President Benjamin Ladner with Gao's husband, Xue Donghua.

March 27, 2001: Gao is accused of acting as a paid spy for overseas intelligence agencies by a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman.

March 30, 2001: Gao's husband is sworn-in as a U.S. citizen.

April 7, 2001: Gao's husband files a tax return, which does not include the processor sale. Ladner visits China and South Korea as part of a preplanned Far East trip. He spent part of trip negotiating for Gao's release.

April 9, 2001: AU Students protest Gao's detention outside the Chinese Embassy.

June 25, 2001: The U.S. House of Representatives passes a resolution condemning the detainment of Gao and others, and calls for their immediate release.

July 5, 2001: President Bush discusses Gao and other detained citizens in a phone call with Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

July 26, 2001: Gao is released and expelled from China after 166 days.

Aug. 2, 2001: The INS cancels a Capitol Hill ceremony to swear in Gao as a U.S. citizen.

September 2002: Gao completes her appointment at AU.

Nov. 26, 2003: Gao pleads guilty to charges of illegally exporting a controlled item and tax fraud. Her husband pleads guilty to tax fraud also.

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