SYDNEY (AP) – Two alleged Chinese spies have handed a Sydney businessman cash for information on issues involving government agreements with the US and UK to build a fleet of Australian nuclear submarines. The envelope was handed over, prosecutors told the court on Monday.
Businessman Alexander Sergo was denied bail when he appeared via video link from prison at Sydney’s Downing Center Magistrates Court on charges of reckless foreign intervention.
The charges contained in the Secret Foreign Interference and Espionage Act, which angered China when it was passed in 2018, carry a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
Since 2021, the business has been owned by an infrastructure consulting firm accused of taking money from two alleged Chinese spies known by the names Ken and Evelyn.
The issues involved the AUKUS partnership announced in September 2021 between Australia, the UK and the US to create an Australian submarine fleet with US nuclear technology, according to prosecutor Connor. McRaeth said.
U.S. President Joe Biden and Australian and British heads of state and government announced in March a deal that would involve Australia buying second-hand Virginia-class submarines from the U.S. and building new AUKUS-class submarines with Britain. announced the details.
The alleged spy also requested details of Australia’s partnership with the United States, Japan and India, known as the Shikoku Security Dialogue or Quad, and information about lithium and iron ore mining in Australia, according to prosecutors.
Csergo has been in custody since being arrested Friday at his home in Sydney’s beachside suburb of Bondi. He had been under questioning for weeks by police and agents of the Australian Security Intelligence Service, the country’s main national spy agency.
McCraith admitted that Csergo early on in the questioning that Ken and he suspected Evylen of being a spy shortly after meeting them, but said he had been in touch for two years. “He clearly has ties to the Chinese state and he believes the two work for the MSS [Ministry of National Security],” McCraith said in court. “He also returned to Australia with a shopping list of requested information,” he said.
Mr McCraith said if he was a reasonable person he would have notified Australian authorities as soon as they were contacted.
Sergo maintains contact with the alleged male spy and invited him to visit him in Australia, McCrais said.
Csergo’s attorney, Bernard Collaery, said he had no problem with his client’s conduct and was a veteran and successful businessman acclaimed for building industrial relations in China. “Businessmen like our clients know that all roads lead to the state, whether it’s the state’s economic intelligence agency or the Department of National Security,” Collaery said.
“Cash payments for advisory reports may be tinged with color in Australia, but they may be the way it’s done in China. It’s not necessarily scary,” Collaery added.
Collaery said the reports were derived from public documents and his own creative efforts by Csergo and did not come close to espionage.
Magistrate Michael Barco said Sergo was “a very educated, cultured and cosmopolitan businessman” and was entitled to a presumption of innocence.
But Csergo faced a strong case from prosecutors, including some serious confessions, he said, Barko. According to court documents, Csergo told ASIO investigators that he met Ken and Evelyn at an empty cafe in Shanghai and believed the cafe had been cleared specifically for him.
Sergo also believed that Ken and Evelyn were used as his “handlers” by the Chinese spy service.
“I don’t know what they are doing in China, but if a layman in this country were to read these facts, they would at least be very suspicious of the defendant’s actions.
Csergo said he plans to appear in court again in June.
Collaery told reporters outside the court that his top group representing Australian legal professionals, the Australian Legal Council, had long warned that the foreign interference law was too broad. “Whether you are working as a consultant abroad and are a private contractor or a government official, you may undertake consulting work that may relate to foreign influences or national security in Australia, such as lithium deliveries. If you have iron ore, you could be guilty of foreign influence under this law,” Collaery said.
“This is an absolute civil liberties issue,” Collaery said. “A subset of all these is China. These are the drums of foreign antipathy encroaching on New South Wales.”