NORFOLK—A Virginia scientist pleaded guilty last week to selling rocket technology to China and bribing Chinese officials to secure a lucrative contract for his high-tech company.
Quan-Sheng Shu, 68, pleaded guilty to two counts of violating the federal Arms Control Act and one count of bribery at a hearing in U.S. District Court in Norfolk.
Shu is president of AMAC International Inc. of Newport News. He is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Shanghai.
Prosecutors said Shu, an expert in cryogenics, sold technology to China for the development of hydrogen-propelled rockets. Cryogenics is the science of very low temperatures, such as those needed when hydrogen is used as a rocket fuel.
The Chinese government is developing a space launch facility in the southern island province of Hainan that will house liquid-propelled launch vehicles designed to send space stations and satellites into orbit.
Shu also was charged with bribing Chinese officials to award a $4 million hydrogen liquefier contract to a French company acting as an AMAC intermediary.
Shu received more than $386,000 in commissions for securing the contract, authorities said. He already had agreed to forfeit that money. His company also has offices in Beijing.
The scientist and his wife refused to comment as they left the courtroom. As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors agreed not to prosecute his wife for the role she allegedly played in the scheme.
Shu faces up to 10 years on each arms count and five years for the bribery charge and fines of up to $2.5 million. Sentencing is scheduled for April 6.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan M. Salsbury said Shu’s conviction was the result of an ongoing FBI investigation, but he declined further comment after the hearing.
Federal authorities in recent years have prosecuted more than a dozen cases of either traditional spying or economic espionage related to China. U.S. officials have warned in the last year of increasing espionage efforts by Beijing.