Police are charging a 53-year-old engineer with attempting to pass along classified Canadian shipbuilding techniques to China, a set of allegations that speaks to how private contractors can be possible backdoor threats to government secrets. In what seems like lightning speed in an espionage case, the Mounties arrested Waterdown, Ont., resident Qing Quentin Huang after learning only last Thursday, Nov. 28, that someone was going to sell sensitive information to the Chinese. RCMP arrested Huang on Saturday afternoon
The RCMP-led probe known as "Project Seascape" resulted in a charge of attempting "to communicate to a foreign entity information that the government of Canada is taking measures to safeguard."
While police allege that Mr. Huang acted alone to take steps to pass along material to China, there is no allegation that any Chinese official agreed to receive any material. Police have charged him with two counts of violating the Security of Information Act. “We believe he was planning to use schematics, technical drawings and technical information relating to the naval fleet,” said Sergeant Richard Rollings, an RCMP spokesman. Since 2006, Mr. Huang has been working on marine designs for Lloyd’s Register Canada Ltd., a subcontractor working on a federal program to build specialized Canadian Forces ships.
As alleged, the case is “a conspiracy of one – that makes it a lot easier,” said Ray Boisvert, a former Canadian Security Intelligence Service official. The speed of the arrest, he said, speaks to the fact that CSIS ( Canadian Security Intelligence Service) and the RCMP were likely working together. The prime goal would be to “stop the hemorrhaging” of any potential information leaks, Mr. Boisvert said.
The Mounties have thanked CSIS, among other agencies, for their assistance. The Canadian government has embarked on a $33-billion program to modernize its navy. Most of the funds have been allocated for contracts with Irving Shipbuilding Inc. for new fleets of general-use military ships and Arctic boats. The latter contract will equip the Royal Canadian Navy with vessels that are capable of navigating through Arctic waters, with a better ability to break through ice.
Officials at Lloyd’s Register suggest that the target of the alleged espionage was the Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships project (AOPS). They add that Mr. Huang had had no direct access to any classified documents.
“We wonder what he might have been [allegedly] trying to pass on and where he might have received it,” said Bud Streeter, President of Lloyd’s Register Canada.
Countries such as China and Russia are known to be in the market for all manner of military and industrial secrets that could help dull the economic and military advantages held by the West. In the case of Canada's Arctic, which is a mother lode of natural resources, including oil, China might be interested in knowing how closely we watch our borders and how well we guard our territory. She might want to know how many ships patrol up there and if they are equipped with weaponry.
Mr. Huang is to attend a bail hearing Wednesday.