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US government seeks 16 months’ jail for Singaporean who spied for China

Dickson Yeo is due to be sentenced in a US federal court on Oct 9

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Prosecutors in the United States (US) have asked for a sentence of 16 months for Dickson Yeo, the Singaporean man who pleaded guilty to spying for China.

Mr Yeo is due to be sentenced in a US federal court on Friday (Oct 9), with his lawyer asking for a sentence of time served, which would work out to approximately 13 months.

The former National University of Singapore (NUS) PhD student admitted to operating illegally as a foreign agent in the US.

On Nov 7 last year, Mr Yeo was approached by FBI agents at John F Kennedy (JFK) airport to do a voluntary interview.

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During the voluntary, non-custodial interview, Mr Yeo was “forthcoming about his activities”, admitting that he worked for Chinese intelligence services, the court documents said, according to a CNA report.

“After the interview, Yeo agreed to continue meeting with the FBI. The next day, Yeo was arrested and taken into custody,” the sentencing memorandum said.

According to a Straits Times report, Mr Yeo’s lawyer, Michelle Peterson said: “He did not betray Singapore and he does not bear any malice towards the United States or any US citizens. He was deeply attracted to China and its ability to uplift millions from poverty with industrial policy, which led him to be easily influenced”.

During his time in the US, Mr Yeo used social media to target American military and government employees who had access to sensitive information and persuaded them to write reports for cash. He would then pass these reports to his handlers from the Chinese intelligence services.

“When he was approached at the airport, he was free to leave. Nevertheless, he agreed instead to be debriefed by the agents. He deplaned when he did not have to do so, and fully debriefed,” Ms Peterson said, according to an ST report.

This, she added, was an “exceptional level of acceptance of responsibility and genuine showing of remorse”. /TISG

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