The head of a Brussels-based think-tank is under investigation by a joint Belgian-British team, on suspicion of leaking sensitive information to two Chinese agents posing as journalists.
Glasgow-born Fraser Cameron is director of the EU-Asia Centre, whose own website says it is “dedicated to promoting closer relations between the EU and Asia”. The centre was founded in 2011, and receives funding “and other support from several diplomatic missions to the EU including China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand”.
From 1976 to 1991, Cameron was employed by MI6, Britain’s foreign intelligence agency. He later worked for the British Foreign Office and for the European Commission, where he worked until 2006 and built up a network of highly-placed functionaries, according to De Standaard.
Brussels, with its international institutions civilian and military, is known to be a hotbed of classical and economic espionage. De Standaard reports that the British and Belgian intelligence services were investigating suspected Chinese agents operating in Brussels under cover of being journalists.
That investigation brought them to Cameron, who it is alleged passed sensitive information to the agents, in return for “thousands of euros”.
However ‘sensitive’ information does not necessarily mean ‘classified’. Economic espionage also deals in sensitive information – for example the position of member states and institutions on the question of 5G developments. Trafficking in such information may not even be illegal, but that is for the investigation – and possibly later for the courts – to determine.
Belgian law defines espionage as “The transmission of objects, plans, or information that must be kept secret in the interest of the defence of the territory or the state”. The law dates from 1934.
He also pointed out that he has “a wide range of Chinese contacts as part of my duties with the EU-Asia Centre and some of them may have a double function,” adding: “I retired 15 years ago from official employment and have zero access to any sensitive information.”
In a statement published by De Standaard, Cameron said, “The Chinese Embassy gives a small annual allowance to our think tank to organise events, as they do to many other think tanks. Those are the only payments I have received from the Chinese side. Those who follow our work will see that we also remain critical of China.”