A history of espionage between Germany, China and Italy

A history of espionage between Germany, China and Italy
A history of espionage between Germany, China and Italy

Klaus Lange is a 74-year-old German man, retired political scientist, writer, analyst, and now also an alleged spy. Lange was arrested on Tuesday at Munich airport by German police after returning from a stay in Italy: he is accused of having passed on confidential information to the Chinese government in exchange for money. The Italian secret services that report to Aisi, the Information and Internal Security Agency, also collaborated in the arrest. Lange, in fact, has also been a base in Italy for some time, where in Gais, a town of 3,700 inhabitants in Val Pusteria (Alto Adige), he opened a branch of his study center, the Institute for Transnational Studies.

To understand how the arrest and the accusation of espionage came about, we need to take a step back about twenty years. Lange was then an esteemed political scientist, consultant to the Hans Seidel Siftung of Munich, a very famous foundation in Germany, financed by CSU, the Bavarian branch of the CDU, the party of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Lange mainly dealt with Asia, Russia and the Balkan area. However, in those years he also provided information for a fee to the Bundesnachrichtendienst, the external intelligence agency of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Then in the early 2000s he founded his own study center, the Institute for Transnational Studies, also based in Munich, aimed above all at analyzing the Asian area. Italy entered history in 2010, when the man opened a branch of his study center also in Gais, in the province of Bolzano. The Italian office is headed by Klara Knapp, Lange’s South Tyrolean wife, an English teacher, born in Gais and now also under investigation for alleged espionage.

In reality, according to the Post, the Italian headquarters of ITS is simply the home of the couple where the phone now rings empty.

From the information available, the contact between Lange and Guoanbu, the Chinese information service of the Ministry of State Security (according to analysts’ estimates, it can count on 800,000 agents active both inside the country and abroad), took place during a conference in Shanghai. In exchange for money, Lange would have agreed to provide information to the Chinese thus becoming, according to the accusation of the German authorities, the classic double agent.

The Munich public prosecutor’s deed that led to the arrest states that “the accused has regularly provided information, acquired from important political sources, to the Chinese secret services before, during and after international conferences”. The information concerned mainly Germany but more generally the whole of the European Union. The business would go on for at least ten years. In addition to regular compensation, Lange also received reimbursements for every trip to and from China.

Since 2019, the couple knew they were being monitored by German police authorities. Two years ago the ITS Munich office had already been searched: computers and documents had been seized.

Lange and Klara Knapp organized and held, until the beginning of the pandemic, conferences on Islamist terrorism, but also on energy policies, especially in India and Nepal; in Italy, the two spouses had not organized conferences for seven years.

Now a councilor of the province of Bolzano of the Brothers of Italy, Alessandro Urzì, asked, with a question to the president of the province, “which operations had the headquarters of the ITS in the province of Bolzano”. Probably, the Italian headquarters of the study center served only as a base. Lange was stopped by the German authorities when he arrived in Germany from Italy. From there he would then have to leave for Shanghai to meet his Chinese contacts.

The man is currently in custody, the German judiciary will have to determine if there are grounds for arrest. As for Italy, Franco Gabrielli, chief of police and undersecretary in the government with responsibility for the security of the Republic, said that “the findings acquired by Aisi have made it possible to confirm the spying activity of Klaus Lange and Klara Knapp not concerning in any way our country but focused on the Indo-Pacific quadrant ».

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