The Belgian intelligence service VSSE revealed that is investigating potential cyber espionage activities carried out by Chinese firms, including the Alibaba Group Holding, at a cargo airport in Liege.
According to the Financial Times, Alibaba has located its main European logistics centre at Liege Airport and the VSSE was working to “detect and fight against possible spying and/or interference activities carried out by Chinese entities including Alibaba”.
The Alibaba logistics hub at the cargo airport in Liège, Cainiao, has been active since 2018.
The Belgian intelligence service fears that the Chinese government can force Chinese businesses or individuals to support its intelligence operations in compliance with its National Intelligence Law.
“China’s activities in Belgium are not limited to the classic spy stealing state secrets or the hacker paralysing an essential industry or government department from behind his PC. In an attempt to influence decision-making processes, China uses a range of state and non-state resources.” reads the VSSE’s annual report. “Yet our economic activities are closely intertwined with China – even in strategic sectors. This is one of the reasons why, in recent years, the VSSE has kept a close eye on China’s efforts, openly and behind the scenes, to promote its interests in our country. Moreover, with the presence of a large number of major international institutions, Belgium is a very attractive target for Chinese espionage and influence peddling.”
“China has the intent and capacity to use this data for non-commercial purposes,” the VSSE said.
Cainiao representatives denied any allegations.
“We strongly deny the allegations [which are] based on prior conjecture,” Cainiao told CNN. “Cainiao is in compliance with all laws and regulations where it operates.”
Belgian intelligence believes that data gathered by Alibaba through its systems at the hub can allow Chinese spies to gather intelligence into the logistics identifying critical actors in the supply chains.
Collected data have an enormous value for the Chinese intelligence agencies that can use it for cyber espionage and sabotage purposes, along with conducting financial intelligence on Western countries.