McGill Associate Professor Ishiang Shih’s home in Brossard was raided on Jan. 19 in connection with an investigation of his possible role in the theft of military technology from the United States. I. Shih was suspected of conspiring with his brother, Yi-Chi Shih—an adjunct professor at the University of California, Los Angeles—and an associate, Kiet Ahn Mai, to illegally obtain monolithic microwave integrated circuits (MMICs), devices used in U.S. military radars and warfare systems. The three men are accused of trying to export the MMICs to Y. Shih’s company in China: Chengdu GaStone Technology Company (CGTC).
According to a press release on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Jan. 19, the U.S. has required individuals to get a special license to trade with CGTC since 2014 on account of the company’s illicit activities.
“[Yi-Chi] Shih was the president of CGTC, which in 2014 was placed on the Commerce Department’s Entity List, according to the affidavit, ‘due to its involvement in activities contrary to the national security and foreign policy interest of the United States,’” the press release reads. “Specifically, that it had been involved in the illicit procurement of commodities and technologies for unauthorized military end use in China.”
The same press release quotes U.S. prosecutor Nicola T. Hanna condemning smuggling MMICs, calling it a threat to the country’s national security and business interests.
“The very sensitive information would also benefit foreign adversaries who could use the technology to further or develop military applications that would be detrimental to our national security,” Hanna said.
In the inquiry, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been monitoring the brothers’ emails and tracking Y. Shih’s frequent flights between Canada, the U.S., and China over a 10-year period. According to an affidavit filed by U.S. authorities, I. Shih paid Mai $800,000 to purchase the MMICs. The payment was transferred from JYS Technologies, a Brossard-based company owned by I. Shih and his wife. After the transfer and shortly before his arrest, Y. Shih sent a UPS package to I. Shih at McGill’s McConnell Engineering Building. That package is now being investigated.
I. Shih, who taught engineering courses in electrical machinery and transistor devices at McGill, denied all allegations of criminal activity in a statement to La Presse on Jan. 25, claiming the chips had been purchased for research purposes only.
“It’s a misunderstanding,” I. Shih said. “We are only researchers, we do research [….] I was in the process of writing an application for a research grant.
I. Shih is currently being held by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and is searching for a lawyer.
According to Jacques Courteau, retired director of the RCMP and international criminal law specialist, the process of prosecuting the Shih brothers will be complicated because the crime transcends national borders. He explained the complications of sending I. Shih to the U.S. for trial, or extraditing him, in an interview with The McGill Tribune.
“It’s not obvious that just because there’s been a violation of national security laws in the U.S. that Canada will deem it a breach of justice in Canada,” Courteau said. “And for a crime to be extraditable, it must be a crime in both countries [….] So it will be mandatory for the U.S. to demonstrate to the Canadian court that not only was the crime a crime against national security in the U.S., but also in Canada.”
Corteau noted that the respectable academic backgrounds of the accused may further influence judicial action.
“There are many offenses like this that the extradition treaties between countries do not recognize,” Corteau said. “For example, it is very rare to have white-collar crime recognized as an extraditable offense.”
McGill’s administration declined to comment on the events surrounding the investigation.