The Malta Independent 30 May 2020, Saturday

Belgian intelligence probed China spy threat in Dar Malta, denies accusing Malta

Tuesday, 19 May 2020, 14:48 Last update: about 10 days ago

Belgian intelligence has confirmed that it had investigated the threat of potential Chinese espionage out of Malta’s embassy in Brussels but denied that they had officially accused Malta of spying, EUobserver reported on Tuesday.

"There were Chinese people who were involved in the renovation of the Dar Malta embassy in 2007 and it caught our attention," Belgium's homeland security service, the Veiligheid van de Staat (VSSE), told EUobserver on Monday.

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The VSSE suspicions arose "without a foreign service having drawn our attention to this fact", it said.

"There has never been any evidence that Chinese spy activities have [actually] taken place from this building and we never said that was the case," the VSSE added.

And "it is incorrect that the VSSE officially accused Malta of spying," it said.

The VSSE was asked for its comments after French newspaper Le Monde reported on suspicions that Chinese intelligence had installed equipment inside Malta’s embassy in Brussels in 2007 to spy on the European institutions located close by.

A Chinese firm was involved in the renovation of the building in 2007, and the French newspaper reported that the VSSE had been tipped off by British spies about the possibility of the espionage.

Malta has denied the claims, noting that the article was filled with “incorrect allegations” and only furniture was donated to the government by China in line with all the relevant security procedures.  Richard Cachia Caruana, who was Malta’s ambassador to the EU at the time, also described the article as “completely incorrect”.

EUobserver report that the head of the EU foreign service, Josep Borrell said that the EU had not been advised of any such espionage threats.

"If the Belgians have something to tell us [on the China-Malta threat], they will, but for the time being [that] hasn't happened," Borrell told press.

Two Dutch MEPs – Bart Groothuis and Malik Azmani – have since called for an EU “security review” and a “full enquiry” into the issue, noting that if Malta’s embassy was indeed compromised it could pose a “grave security risk”.

 

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