Skip to main content

Ex-space agency engineer acquitted on charge of acting for Chinese firm

A sign for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service building is shown in Ottawa, Tuesday, May 14, 2013. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick) A sign for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service building is shown in Ottawa, Tuesday, May 14, 2013. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)

A former Canadian Space Agency engineer was acquitted Friday on a breach of trust charge over his dealings with a Chinese aerospace company while in the federal agency's employ.

Wanping Zheng, 63, expressed relief after Quebec court Judge Marc-Antoine Carette's ruling in Longueuil, Que., south of Montreal.

Zheng, a resident of the Montreal suburb of Brossard, Que., was accused of using his position to act on behalf of Chinese aerospace company Spacety.

Carette read his ruling aloud in court, saying that while Zheng's actions certainly warranted disciplinary measures, the Crown failed to prove he committed a crime.

"It is clear that Mr. Zheng made many errors of judgment, his actions clearly constitute many disciplinary faults," Carette said. "Does Mr. Zheng's behaviour constitute criminal negligence? In other words, does his conduct represent a marked departure from the standard expected of an individual in the accused's position of trust?"

Carette said the court was unsure and had reasonable doubt.

The Crown alleged that Zheng had acted as a middleman for the Chinese firm by contacting two Canadian space companies to do business with it. The alleged infractions took place between July 2018 and May 2019.

Zheng did not testify at the trial, but the Crown included an interview he gave to police officers in 2021 after his arrest during which he defended his actions. He said he had only wanted to help the two Canadian companies by putting them in contact with the Chinese firm.

Zheng did not disclose the dealings to officials at the space agency, where he was employed for 25 years.

The court heard that Zheng had not been compensated by Spacety when he approached the Canadian companies. But after he resigned from the Canadian Space Agency in September 2019, he sought out employment and was hired by Spacety to set up operations in Luxembourg.

"I'm very pleased for Mr. Zheng, it was very stressful for him, I don't think he did anything criminal and the judge said so," defence lawyer Andrew Barbacki told reporters following the decision.

Prosecutor Marc Cigana said his office will study the ruling before it decides whether to appeal.

"If we thought it was an error in judgment, we wouldn't have charged him criminally," Cigana said.  

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on April 12, 2024. Top Stories

Here's how new AI tech could change the iPhone

Generative AI, artificial intelligence that can provide thoughtful and thorough responses to questions and prompts, could potentially breathe new life into Apple’s iPhone lineup at a time when competitors are threatening to leave the company behind in the race to shape what could be a world-changing technology.

Stay Connected