Ex-Air China worker charged by U.S. for smuggling for Chinese military

August 31, 2016 5:23 PM EDT

Former Air China employee Ying Lin exits the building after a pretrial hearing in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, U.S. on June 21, 2016. REUTERS/Nate Raymond

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By Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) - An ex-Air China Ltd <601111.SS> employee was indicted on Wednesday for smuggling packages onto flights from New York to China on behalf of Chinese military personnel stationed at the country's U.N. mission, U.S. prosecutors said.

Ying Lin, 46, was also accused in an indictment filed in federal court in Brooklyn of obstructing justice by helping a Chinese national the Federal Bureau of Investigation was investigating to flee the country last year.

Prosecutors did not name the Chinese national, but his description matches that of Qin Fei of Beijing, who other court records show the FBI has suspected may be involved with Chinese intelligence.

Qin's link to Lin was revealed recently following the filing in court of the FBI's 2015 interview of Ng Lap Seng, a Macau billionaire accused of participating in a U.N. bribery and who was also linked to Lin.

Lawyers for Lin and Qin did not respond to requests for comment. Ng's lawyer declined comment. An Air China spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment.

China's Defense Ministry declined to comment.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she "did not understand the relevant situation". She did not elaborate.

Lin, a resident of the city's Queens borough, was previously arrested in August 2015 and charged for structuring financial transactions. She pleaded not guilty.

The new indictment alleged Lin, while working for Air China at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, helped smuggle packages onto flights from Chinese military officers at its U.N. mission and employees at China's consulate.

In return, Lin received discounted liquor from diplomatic duty-free shops and tax-exempt electronic device purchases, prosecutors said.

The obstruction charge stemmed from a warning the indictment said Lin gave to a Chinese national after FBI agents interviewed her two adult daughters in October 2015.

The indictment said Lin helped the individual, called her "Confederate," depart on an Air China flight for Beijing that Oct. 28.

While not named, the indictment said Lin was responsible for renovating and furnishing a Long Island residence the "Confederate" owned. Property records list Lin as an agent for Qin's $10 million Long Island mansion.

In his FBI interview, Ng discussed Qin's mansion. He called Qin a consultant at Ng's company, Sun Kian Ip Group.

Prosecutors have accused Ng of giving John Ashe, who served as U.N. General Assembly from 2013 to 2014, over $500,000 in bribes to, among other things, support a U.N.-backed conference center in Macau his company would develop.

Ashe, a former U.N. ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda, died in June awaiting trial. Ng has pleaded not guilty.

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Richard Chang, David Gregorio, Bernard Orr and Michael Perry)

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