Analysis

How Dickson Yeo built a ‘bridge of spies’ network for China in the US

In a textbook story of subterfuge, he was approached to provide ‘political reports and information’

Jun Wei Yeo was the spy who was forced to come in from the cold.

Known also as Dickson Yeo, he was recruited by China’s intelligence agencies in 2015 before his cover was blown earlier this month after being charged with spying in the United States.

In a textbook story of subterfuge, he was approached to provide  “political reports and information,” according to US federal court documents after setting up a bogus consultancy.

Even though he knew he was being groomed by Chinese agents, the Singaporean Ph.D. student continued his undercover operations.

At first, he was told by his contacts that they wanted to pay him to provide “political reports and information,” a sworn statement revealed.

Highly-sensitive material

But that quickly developed into gathering highly-sensitive material, forcing Yeo to set up a fake company as he trawled professional networking website LinkedIn for potential American targets.

Court statements have shown that the 39-year-old was told by his handlers to obtain information about the US Department of Commerce, artificial intelligence, or AI, research and the US-China trade war.

Jun Wei Yeo, also known as Dickson Yeo, now faces 10 years in a US prison for spying. Photo: Courtesy of Facebook

“In finding such contacts, Yeo, who was based in Washington for part of 2019, was aided by an invisible ally – the LinkedIn algorithm,” the BBC reported

“Each time Yeo looked at someone’s profile, it would suggest a new slate of contacts with similar experience that he might be interested in. Yeo described it as ‘relentless,’” it added.

Diplomatic relations

In 2018, he also posted fake online job advertisements for his consulting company and received at least 400 CVs. Up to 90% came from “US military and government personnel with security clearances,” court documents highlighted. Many were later passed on to his Chinese masters.

His ‘bridge of spies’ network was finally smashed last November after traveling back to the US.

Arrested by federal authorities, Yeo pleaded guilty just weeks ago in a Washington court to being an “illegal agent of a foreign power.” 

He now faces up to 10 years in prison as diplomatic relations between Beijing and Washington enter a new Cold War phase. 

Finally, for LinkedIn, this adds a whole new meaning to the scourge of spyware.

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