A Toronto man is under arrest on suspicion of passing classified information about Canadian shipbuilding practices to China, Canadian authorities said on Sunday.
Qing Quentin Huang, 53, was charged under the Security of Information Act with two counts of attempting to communicate to a foreign entity information that the Government of Canada is taking measures to safeguard.
On Sunday, Canadian law enforcement officials — including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Toronto Police Service and the Ontario Provincial Police — detailed circumstances that led Huang’s arrest.
RCMP officials said they were informed on Thursday, Nov. 28, that Huang, who had worked for a subcontractor involved in ship design, was taking steps to pass sensitive information to authorities from the People’s Republic of China.
That information, the officials said, relates to certain elements of the Government of Canada National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy which includes patrol ships, frigates, naval auxiliary vessels, science research vessels and ice breakers.
Huang, who appeared to be acting alone, is expected to appear in court for a bail hearing on Wednesday, police told Reuters. The charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.
“In these types of cases, sharing of information may give a foreign entity a tactical, military or competitive advantage by knowing the specifications of vessels responsible for defending Canadian waters and Canadian sovereignty,” RCMP Chief Superintendent Jennifer Strachan, the Criminal Operations Officer for the Province of Ontario, said in a rare Sunday news briefing.
From the moment the RCMP was informed of the criminal nature of the actions, Strachan said, a criminal probe, dubbed “Project Seascape,” was initiated.
“National Security Investigations are complex and this one was no different,” added RCMP Chief Superintendent Larry Tremblay, Director General of the RCMP’s Federal Policing Criminal Operations in Ottawa.
RCMP spokesman Sgt. Richard Rollings told NBC News on Sunday that Huang, who was arrested Saturday in Burlington, Ontario, is a Canadian citizen but did not say if he was born in the country or naturalized there.
The materials that Huang was allegedly "taking steps" to pass on were technical in nature and included plans and design sketches, Rolling said.
Rollings said Huang’s possible motive – whether financial or nationalistic – was not immediately clear.
Reuters contributed to this report.
First published December 1 2013, 1:53 PM