Interest charge

CSIS has repeatedly warned the space agency that an engineer faces a breach of trust charge

According to the charge filed, the alleged crime took place between July 1, 2018 and May 30, 2019, in Brossard and St-Hubert — where the Canadian Space Agency is headquartered — as well as in Toronto, Ottawa and elsewhere in Ontario and Quebec.

According to sworn police affidavits, Canada’s intelligence service issued three warnings to the space agency in September 2015 and March and May 2016, concerned about Zheng’s ‘reliability status’ – essentially his security clearance. .

According to the documents, the initial warning in 2015 did not indicate what triggered the spy agency’s concerns, but a few months later the CSA was asked whether Zheng had access to information on a anti-vibration table, an intellectual property owned by space. agency.

The court document suggests that despite the three warnings, Zheng’s security clearance status was renewed by the space agency in April 2017 – but only for two years instead of the usual 10 to ensure he followed the guidelines. internal policies.

Later in 2017, CSIS declined to provide a briefing to the space agency because Zheng was allegedly present.

In May 2018, Zheng took six months’ unpaid leave from the agency and was reportedly again reminded of conflict of interest rules.

It was in December 2018 that Zheng learned he was under internal CSA investigation, and he went on sick leave three days later. He resigned from his position with the agency in September 2019. Six days later, agency officials contacted the RCMP.

The RCMP said its Integrated National Security Team opened an investigation in October 2019. The unit investigates activities by foreign actors or on behalf of foreign actors that endanger the economy or institutions of the Canada.

In an affidavit to secure access to Zheng’s BlackBerry, authorities allege that Zheng represented or worked on behalf of at least five companies while working as a CSA engineer and used his position to facilitate ties with two companies that were not within its mandate.

Last December, the RCMP said in a brief statement describing the case that “Mr. Zheng allegedly used his status as a CSA engineer to negotiate agreements for the installation of satellite station facilities in Iceland. The alleged actions were “in the name of a Chinese aerospace company,” the statement said.

Court documents note that Zheng was employed by the space agency for 26 years between 1993 and 2019. During this time, the agency’s computer technicians found secure file transfer software and an encrypted messaging application on his computer, which violated the agency’s internal rules. .

The Canadian Space Agency previously said that when concerns about Zheng’s activities came to light, it launched an internal investigation and restricted his access until his employment ended in 2019. The agency said it was convinced that the measures protected against inappropriate disclosure of information and decided to strengthen security measures to protect information, people and property.

A spokeswoman for the space agency said she could not comment further due to the pending case, which returns to court Thursday in Longueuil, Que., south of Montreal.

In February, the federal government filed an application with the Federal Court under the Canada Evidence Act to try to protect certain sensitive information from disclosure in the case against Zheng.

Prosecutors raised concerns that “sensitive information or potentially damaging information was to be disclosed” in the case that “would harm national security if disclosed,” according to a filing.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on March 15, 2022.

The Canadian Press