Double life: German BND spies working for CCP

By Michael Götschenberg, ARD security expert

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Germany’s federal prosecutor’s office has launched an investigation into a 74-year-old and his wife for spying for the Chinese Communist Party.

On November 23 right before their trip to China to meet with their Chinese executive officers in Macau, Dieter W. and his wife Andrea D. (name changed by the editors) were stopped by investigators from the Bavarian State Criminal Police Office who presented the couple with a search warrant.

In fact, Dieter W. had lived a double life for decades. Most of the time he did not spy for the Chinese, but for the Federal Intelligence Service (BND). They get paid for supplying the BND with information.

Dieter W. worked at the Hanns Seidel Foundation in Munich close to the CSU. After his retirement, he became a director of a newly founded think tank.

Chinese secret service contact?

Security circles say that it is not uncommon for Chinese intelligence agencies to try to recruit people who are at the end of their careers. Often, those targets are concerned with attention and appreciation and not necessarily with financial interests. And often they don’t even notice what it’s about.

Trips to China were always on the program for Dieter W. and his wife. According to information from the ARD capital studio, an attempt at initiation was finally made by a Chinese secret service when W. was about to retire.

Couple thinks they’re innocent

The Chinese finally equipped them with a laptop and software to transmit encrypted information. It is unclear whether the Chinese knew about their connection to the BND. W. told investigators that he had reported to the BND that the Chinese had attempted to initiate it. The BND, he claims, even directed him to maintain contact with the Chinese.

The aim of the Chinese was to put W. on the World Uyghur Congress. The Uyghurs are an ethnic minority in China who are facing massive reprisals. The Uyghur exile office – the so-called World Congress – is based in Munich. W. and his wife claim that they did not agree to this. Ultimately, however, there was collaboration on other issues.

The value of what the couple delivered to the Chinese is unclear. Money is said to have played no role, only travel expenses were reimbursed. Dieter W. and Andrea D. therefore consider themselves innocent. However, the couple apparently did not report any contact with the Chinese to the BND over the years.

Role of the BND unclear

The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution finally became aware of the couple’s China contacts. The intelligence agency’s counterintelligence countered the case to the Federal Prosecutor’s Office and the Bavarian State Criminal Police Office. The investigations for ARD information continue there.

The case exemplifies the strategic approach of Chinese secret services, security circles say. In addition to attacks in the virtual world, they persistently rely on attracting human sources in all areas of public life.

The Dieter W. case is anything but banal. Especially because of its close connection to the BND. The BND did not intervene as to what it could have done to protect its source. The service accepted that part of its operational business could become public as part of the investigation. The case, it is said in security circles, weighs too heavily.

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