Washington [US], May 29 (ANI): US authorities have arrested two suspected Chinese government agents in connection with an alleged plot by Beijing against the exiled anti-communist Falun Gong spiritual movement, Al Jazeera reported.
Falun Gong which is broadly based around meditation, was banned by China in 1999, after 10,000 members appeared at the central leadership compound in Beijing in silent protest.
The group has called for people to renounce the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
According to CNN, John Chen and Lin Feng were charged in an indictment unsealed on Friday with scheming to revoke a New York-based Falun Gong organisation's tax-exempt status and paying bribes to an undercover police officer posing as a US tax agent.
Chen, a 70-year-old US citizen, and Feng, a 43-year-old lawful permanent resident, are charged with acting as unregistered agents of a foreign government, bribing a public official and conspiracy to commit international money laundering.
Both Chen and Feng were born in China but now live in the Los Angeles area where they were arrested on Friday. Information on an initial court appearance or lawyers who could speak on their behalf was not immediately available.
Federal prosecutors allege that in seeking to undermine Falun Gong in the US, Chen and Feng urged the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to revoke the organisation's non-profit tax status. In a whistle-blower complaint to the tax agency in February, Chen described Falun Gong as a "gigantic mega cult", echoing the language China's government uses to describe the movement.
Chen and Feng then turned to the undercover officer to make sure the IRS acted on the complaint, offering a payment of USD 50,000 - and handing over USD 5,000 in cash as a down payment - if the tax agency conducted an audit, prosecutors said, as per CNN.
The undercover police officer posing as the tax official recorded multiple conversations with Chen and investigators obtained a wiretap to record phone calls in which Chen and Feng discussed instructions they purportedly received from Chinese government officials, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said that in one recording, Chen said Beijing would be "very generous" in rewarding the undercover officer's help in cracking down on Falun Gong's non-profit status. (ANI)