US State Department employee arrested over contacts with Chinese agents
The US Justice Department said 60-year-old Candace Marie Claiborne, a veteran State Department staffer having access to classified information, has been arrested for allegedly hiding her communication with Chinese intelligence agents.
She has been charged with obstructing an official proceeding and making false disclosures to the FBI.
Her arrest comes ahead of President Donald Trump's meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping next week.
US state department employee arrested over Chinese contacts
Who is Claiborne?
Claiborne has been working with the State Department since 1999. She served in several foreign missions, including Iraq, Sudan and China. Claiborne's security clearance gave her access to top secret information.
Claiborne received gifts worth thousands of dollars from Chinese agents
Claiborne was required to report any contact with individuals suspected of links with foreign intelligence agencies.
She didn't report her links with two Chinese intelligence agents, who gave her "tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and benefits… over five years," the Justice Department said.
In 2011, a Chinese agent allegedly gave her around $2500 for information on US economic policy with China.
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Claiborne reportedly said Chinese agents were 'spies'
"Claiborne, who allegedly confided to a co-conspirator that the PRC agents were 'spies,' wilfully misled state department background investigators and FBI investigators about her contacts with those agents," the Justice Department said.
After being contacted by the FBI and State Department, she "instructed her co-conspirators to delete evidence connecting her to the [Chinese] agents," it added.
Could face up to 20 years of prison if convicted
If found guilty of obstructing an official proceeding, Claiborne faces a maximum 20 years in prison. She also faces a maximum term of five years for making false statements to the FBI. Claiborne has pleaded not guilty in court.