German academic’s wife charged with spying for China

Chinese intelligence allegedly paid for the tips and for the pair to travel to meetings with their handlers.

The wife of a German academic charged with spying for China has been indicted herself, with federal prosecutors on Monday saying she assisted her husband in sharing information with Chinese secret services.

According to prosecutors in Karlsruhe, German-Italian national Klara K. and her husband Klaus L. were approached by Chinese agents during a lecture tour to Shanghai in 2010.

From then until November 2019, the couple “regularly passed on information to the Chinese intelligence service in the run-up to or after state visits or multinational conferences”, prosecutors allege.

Klaus L. had been running a political think tank since 2001, gaining international importance due to his scientific reputation and the networks he had built up over many years, the prosecutors said.

The pair obtained information primarily from his numerous high-ranking political contacts, they said.

Chinese intelligence allegedly paid for the tips and for the pair to travel to meetings with their handlers.

Neither Klaus L. nor his wife are in pre-trial detention.

The case has drawn close interest in Germany, with public broadcaster ARD saying Klaus L., 75, led a double life and had also been working as a spy for the German foreign intelligence services (BND).

According to the report, Klaus L. worked for the BND for around 50 years, being paid to supply information from the top professional contacts he made in the course of his career.

Investigators searched his home in November 2019, the ARD report said, just as he and his wife were on their way to Munich airport.

The fact that Klaus L. was only formally charged this year is a sign of how complex the case is, the ARD report said — he apparently did not deny that he was spying for the Chinese, but claimed the German secret services knew about it.

It is unclear whether the Chinese secret service knew about Klaus L.’s connections to the BND.

ARD also said Klaus L. had previously worked for the Hanns Seidel Foundation, which is close to the CSU, the smaller Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right CDU.

He started working for the foundation in the early 1980s, often travelling to give guest lectures in countries such as the former Soviet Union and later in Russia, the Balkans, South Africa and South Asia. 

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