A former engineer at the Canadian Space Agency, Wanping Zheng, was acquitted on a breach of trust charge connected to his interactions with a Chinese aerospace company during his tenure at the agency. The verdict was delivered by Judge Marc-Antoine Carette in Longueuil, Quebec.

Zheng, 63, residing in Brossard, Quebec, faced allegations of leveraging his position to facilitate business between Spacety, a Chinese aerospace firm, and Canadian space companies. Despite acknowledging Zheng’s questionable judgment, Judge Carette found that the prosecution failed to establish his actions as criminal, citing “reasonable doubts” about whether his behavior significantly deviated from what is expected in his role.

The court detailed that between July 2018 and May 2019, Zheng acted as a liaison for Spacety by reaching out to two Canadian firms. He proposed to Ewan Reid, CEO of Mission Control Space Services, to discuss building a satellite ground station in Iceland. Reid felt the proposal offered little benefit to his company and was more about leveraging his Icelandic connections. Zheng also approached Kepler Communications for a potential deal to build and launch 50 satellites.

Despite these interactions, Zheng did not disclose his activities to the Canadian Space Agency, violating agency protocols that required documentation of all external communications. Furthermore, agency officials noted Zheng’s repeated issues with recognizing conflicts of interest, necessitating multiple briefings on proper conduct.

Zheng took a leave of absence in December 2018 amidst an internal investigation by the CSA and resigned in September 2019. Following his departure, the CSA informed the RCMP, leading to charges in 2021.

During the trial, the Crown presented a police interview from 2021 where Zheng defended his intermediary role as an attempt to assist the Canadian companies, though he admitted his approach was excessive. Notably, the judge acknowledged that Zheng did not seek personal gain from these dealings nor shared any proprietary information from the CSA.

Shortly after leaving the CSA, Zheng secured a position with Spacety in Luxembourg. Post-verdict, Zheng remained silent, but his attorney, Andrew Barbacki, expressed satisfaction with the outcome, emphasizing the stress Zheng endured and his belief in Zheng’s non-criminal intent. The prosecutor, Marc Cigana, indicated that his office would review the decision carefully before deciding on an appeal, maintaining that the charges were based on more than just poor judgment


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