An Air China 747-8 passenger jet is seen at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport. Photo: YouTube

A former employee of Air China who worked at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport has pleaded guilty to placing unscreened packages aboard flights to Beijing at the behest of Chinese military personnel and diplomats stationed at the United Nations headquarters.

Lin Ying, a naturalised US citizen and New York resident, was found guilty by a federal court on Wednesday, of working at the direction of Beijing’s mission to the UN, according to the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

Lin could face up to 10 years’ imprisonment if convicted, even though the content of the packages sent back to Beijing remained undisclosed in court documents and she had subsequently left the Chinese flag carrier before her arrest in August 2015.

Lin had been sneaking packages from Chinese military officers at its UN mission and employees at Beijing’s consulate in New York through the city’s airports, using her work with the Chinese airline to thwart US security measures. In return she reportedly was allowed to make tax-exempt purchases of discounted liquor and electronics usually available only to foreign diplomats,  as well as receiving free work done on her home in the Queens district of New York.

She became a target of investigations by the FBI’s New York field office, which conducted stakeouts and eventually arrested her.

She is also accused in another indictment filed in the federal court in Brooklyn of obstructing justice by helping a Chinese national who was under FBI investigation flee the country on an Air China flight bound for Beijing, Reuters reported.

Both Lin and the Chinese national had ties with a Macau billionaire accused of participating in bribery connected to a UN-backed conference center in Macau. The pair were also involved in the transaction of a US$10 million mansion on Long Island.

“This case is a stark example of the Chinese government using the employees of Chinese companies doing business here to engage in illegal activity,” the Washington Post cited Assistant Attorney General John Demers as saying.

A statement by the Attorney’s Office said that any persons covertly doing the Chinese military’s bidding on US soil would be committing a crime, and that Lin and the Chinese military took advantage of a commercial enterprise operating in the US to evade legitimate US government oversight.

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