Chinese researcher in ‘economic warfare’ case loses appeal

GlaxoSmithKline also has a presence in Switzerland, including in Nyon, canton Vaud. Keystone / Laurent Gillieron

A Swiss-based Chinese scientist, accused by the US of helping to steal trade secrets, must remain in Swiss custody due to flight risk, says the Federal Criminal Court.

This content was published on July 8, 2019 - 14:41

In its decision published on MondayExternal link, the court rejected the appeal by Gongda Xue and said the hefty prison sentence he faces if extradited to the US – up to 20 years – means that releasing him from custody would be premature.

Xue was arrested by Swiss authorities in May, almost a year after the US embassy in Bern demanded that he be extradited on charges of economic espionage.

The researcher, who has lived in Switzerland for 18 years, is the brother of Yu Xue, a Chinese-American scientist who last August pleaded guilty at a US District Court in Pennsylvania to stealing secrets from UK-owned GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

The US court claims that Gongda Xue received the stolen information from his sister and performed tests at the Basel-based Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research (where he was employed until 2014) before sending the results to China.

‘Economic warfare’

The stolen information and tests allegedly involved the search for a cure for cancer, and more specifically, antibodies that bind to tumour cells and kill them.

US prosecutors estimate that the value of the stolen secrets amount to some $550 million (CHF545 million) and have characterised the case as an instance of “economic warfare”.

The Friedrich Miescher Institute confirmed to the Reuters news agency that it had employed Gongda Xue as a post-doctoral researcher but said it was not accusing him of any wrongdoing. The scientist’s lawyer declined to comment.

Swiss authorities continue to consider the extradition request by the US.

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