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Visa sought for Chinese spy by UK brokerage, says whistleblower

‘Espionage agent’ for Beijing has since been deported, London tribunal hears

By Aiden Reiter

January 15, 2024

The compliance officer of a UK foreign exchange brokerage was told by his employer to obtain a visa for an alleged Chinese spy, according to claims set out in an employment tribunal ruling.

The UK subsidiary of a Hong Kong-registered group, Goldenway Global Investments, sought a work visa for an individual who it transpired was a “Chinese espionage agent”, according to allegations brought by Bharat Bhagani, a former compliance officer at the company.

The claim that the company sought to obtain a visa for a Chinese espionage agent is the latest in a growing roster of espionage cases between the UK and China.

Beijing earlier this month accused the UK of instructing the head of a foreign consulting firm to spy on China and recruit agents for the British intelligence services.

The UK arrested a House of Commons researcher last year on suspicion of spying for China.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was “appalled” by the event, leading to a tense confrontation between Sunak and Chinese premier Li Qiang on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Delhi.

Meanwhile, there have been growing calls from Conservative backbenchers for the government to adopt a more hawkish stance on China.

Bhagani brought a claim of unfair dismissal against Goldenway Global Investments UK in September after he alerted the Financial Conduct Authority that the company’s directors were not FCA registered and made a string of other complaints, including allegations of money laundering. The FCA made no comment on the claims.

According to the London tribunal ruling released last month, first reported by Bloomberg, Bhagani was asked to help the chief operating officer who had “requisitioned the visa for the Chinese agent”.

The former employee, whose unfair dismissal claim was successful, told the tribunal that while being interviewed by UK authorities regarding the incident, he had learned that the Chinese agent had been deported from Britain.

Goldenway rejected some of the allegations made by Bhagani, but, according to the documents released by the tribunal, Bhagani’s evidence regarding the espionage agent was not “seriously challenged” by Goldenway or its witnesses.

In the absence of contrary evidence, and since Bhagani’s knowledge of the deportation came from interactions with UK authorities, the court ruled that “the claimant had a reasonable belief at the date he made his disclosure to the FCA that the respondent had attempted to recruit a Chinese espionage agent”.

Goldenway did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Bhagani could not be reached.

The Chinese Embassy in London did not immediately comment.



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