Ex-Engineer’s China Technology Transfer Conviction Upheld

The conviction of Chi Mak, an ex-senior engineer at an L-3 Communications Holdings Inc. unit, for trying to give U.S. defense technology to China was upheld by a federal appeals court.

Mak, convicted of violating the Arms Export Control Act, was sentenced to 24 years in prison. Prosecutors said he tried to slip naval technology to China including encrypted documents on making submarines quieter and handling shipboard power disruptions.

Mak’s lawyers claimed the data were widely available and Mak didn’t knowingly break the law. They asked the appeals court to reverse his conviction, saying the trial judge kept jurors from deciding on their own whether the material was in the public domain and therefore legal to export without a license.

A three-judge appeals panel in San Francisco said today that Mak was free to argue that the evidence didn’t support prosecutors’ claim that he knew he was trying to export technical data related to submarine technology.

“Even if Mak’s right to present a meaningful defense was compromised, he could not show the requisite prejudice because there was overwhelming evidence that he knew his actions were illegal,” the judges concluded.

Kurt Mayer, Mak’s attorney, didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail message seeking comment on the ruling.

Investigators found the material in 2005 encrypted on a computer disk behind other, innocuous files in a jacket of learn-English disks in family luggage. Relatives were trying to board a flight from Los Angeles to China.

The case is U.S. v. Mak, 08-50148, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (San Francisco).

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