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An investigation is underway in the case of three European diplomats who are suspected of having spied for China. One of them is a Hungarian-German citizen and senior diplomat who worked for the European Commission and the European External Action Service, the bloc’s diplomatic service.

The Washington Post says – based on German sources – that police already searched apartments and offices in Germany (in Berlin, Baden-Wuerttemberg, and Bavaria) and Brussels. Markus Schmitt, a spokesman for Germany’s federal prosecutor, added that no arrests were made as of yet, but the Belgian prosecutor’s office declined to comment.

The Washington Post says that the investigation comes at a time when concerns are raised about

an expanding Chinese spy network in the heart of the European Union.

Furthermore, European countries are under pressure from the Trump administration as well not to use the services of Chinese tech giant Huawei as it rolls out its 5G network on the continent. This is because the Americans say that the Chinese government can use the company’s equipment for spying and disrupting infrastructure. Of course, Huawei denied such allegations. 

Naturally, the current investigation focuses on Hungarian-German citizen Gerhard Sabathil, a senior EU diplomat, who held many important posts in the institutions of the European community. For example, he worked for the European Commission and the European External Action Service, the bloc’s diplomatic service. He was also appointed

ambassador of the community to South Korea in 2015.

He was recalled in 2016 because his security clearance was revoked. Finally, he left diplomacy in 2017 and joined the European lobbying firm, Eutop. The Munich-based firm counts Deutsche Telekom and British American Tobacco among its clients. According to the suspicion, he handed over information to a Chinese officer from 2017 on.

There are two more suspects who, according to the allegation,

worked under Mr Sabathil in the agent chain.

They also work for two different lobbying firms. “Obviously, China has stepped up its presence in Europe, there is no doubt about that, in quality and quantity,” said Philippe Le Corre, a senior researcher on China at the Harvard Kennedy School and co-author of the 2016 book China’s Offensive in Europe.

However, Mr Le Corre added that such an investigation targeting a senior diplomat of the EU has never happened before. The European diplomatic service said that they do everything to protect their data and staff from both human and cyber threats.


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