BERLIN (Reuters) – Police have raided homes and offices in Brussels and across Germany in a case involving three people suspected of spying for China, prosecutors said on Wednesday.
Der Spiegel magazine, which first reported the raids, said one of the three suspects was a German national who until 2017 had worked as a senior diplomat for the European Union’s foreign service, including multiple stints as an EU ambassador.
The case is the first in recent years involving concrete allegations of spying by China against Germany and the EU. It comes amid growing concern across Europe and the broader West at China’s ramping up of its worldwide spying activity as it builds political influence to match its economic weight.
Germany and other European countries are under pressure from Washington to exclude China’s telecoms equipment maker Huawei from tenders to build fifth generation mobile telephony networks.
“I can confirm that we are carrying out an investigation into intelligence agent activity,” said Markus Schmitt, spokesman for German federal prosecutors. None of the suspects had been arrested, he said.
Raids were conducted in Brussels, Berlin and the two southern states of Baden-Wuerttemberg and Bavaria, the main centers for Germany’s advanced manufacturing industries.
Der Spiegel reported that the former diplomat had held a string of senior posts in the EU’s foreign service. On leaving the EU civil service he had set up as a lobbyist, the magazine reported.
He is also believed to have visited China in the company of his handling officer. Prosecutors declined to confirm the identity or professions of the three suspects.
(This story corrects to remove description of Huawei as state-owned in 4th paragraph)
Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Peter Graff