17 Sep 2020
Hundreds of Australian people smugglers, fraudsters, drug kingpins and a former Macquarie banker jailed for dealing ecstasy are named on a leaked Chinese database, pointing to Beijing’s use of organised crime figures for gathering intelligence and running foreign interference operations.
The database compiled by military contractor China Zhenhua, revealed by The Australian Financial Review on Monday, contains notes on more than 400 Australian criminals and dozens more sanctioned by the corporate regulator or connected with corruption.
The database filters out crimes such as robbery and murder to focus almost exclusively on narcotics, fraud and human trafficking.
“It is a very real warning that China is utilising crime as another part of its far-reaching foreign interference and intelligence-gathering operations around the world,” said an Australian intelligence source, who asked not to be named.
The Zhenhua database, which features more than 35,000 Australians, from politicians to business people to religious figures and retired military officers, forms part of Beijing’s efforts to target and track influential figures from across the world.
The database consisting of about 2.4 million people globally was partly compiled by scraping social media sites Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Crunchbase.
Concern and alarm
The leaked database has been met with concern and alarm in Australia and will now form part of a Senate inquiry into foreign interference through social media, chaired by Labor’s Jenny McAllister.
“Almost certainly this is not the only information-gathering organisation of this type, but the fact that we’ve come to know about it should serve as a warning – it’s time for governments to start taking action,” she said.
This follows Facebook and LinkedIn saying Zhenhua was not permitted to collect data from their platforms in this manner.
By Angus Grigg, The Australian Financial Review, 16 September 2020
Read more at The Australian Financial Review
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