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Last Updated: Friday, 9 May, 2003, 11:12 GMT 12:12 UK
Chinese 'double agent' defended
Katrina Leung
Leung was considered a highly valuable source

The lawyers and family of a woman charged in the United States with spying for China have spoken out in her defence.

Katrina Leung, a naturalised US citizen who is suspected of being a Chinese double agent, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that she illegally took, copied and kept secret documents.

It is alleged that she got the documents from James Smith, a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent who recruited her as a spy and became her lover.

Ms Leung's lawyer, Janet Levine, said her client was a loyal American who was being offered up as a "sacrificial lamb" by the FBI to cover its own failings.

People need to know that this is no Chinese Mata Hari
Katrina Leung's lawyer

Standing outside Ms Leung's home in the exclusive Los Angeles suburb of San Marino, Ms Levine said the FBI had risked her client's life by continuing to employ her as an agent after her cover was blown.

"For 20 years Katrina served her adopted country out of loyalty and because she was conned and used by the FBI," said Ms Levine.

"Now she has been stabbed in the back by the same bureaucrats...

"People need to know that this is no Chinese Mata Hari.

"This is an insulting and degrading sexist and racist slur planted and used by people who should be ashamed of themselves."

Ms Leung's husband, Kam, said that his wife was being treated more harshly by the FBI because she was foreign-born and a woman.

He predicted that she would be found innocent.

"I look forward to the day I can welcome her back to this home free of the FBI's shackles," he said.

Political fundraiser

Ms Leung, 49, was indicted by the grand jury in Los Angeles.

A prominent Los Angeles socialite and fundraiser for the Republican Party, she has been held without bond since her arrest on 9 April.

She was considered a highly valuable source by the FBI and was paid $1.7m for her information over the years, court documents say.

Mr Smith, 59, has been indicted on charges of gross negligence and wire fraud for allegedly allowing his mistress access to secrets. He denies any wrongdoing.

He was freed on a $250,000 bond shortly after his arrest, also on 9 April.

They are both due in court on Monday to plead to the charges.

Second affair

Mr Smith is said to have recruited Ms Leung in 1982 to be an FBI agent providing intelligence on China, and the two began an affair that year.

But it is alleged that Ms Leung was simultaneously passing information to the Chinese.

Prosecutors say she removed classified material from Mr Smith's briefcase when he visited her home, and passed the information to Chinese intelligence agents.

Ms Leung also had an affair with a second FBI agent, William Cleveland, who was not charged in connection with the case but resigned as the top security official at a nuclear research laboratory after her arrest.

Ms Leung faces up to 50 years in prison if convicted on all counts, while Mr Smith faces up to 40 years behind bars.

Mr Smith spent 30 years in the FBI, most of that time as a Chinese counter-intelligence agent, before retiring three years ago.

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