China was allegedly using the Maltese embassy in Brussels as a 'spy tower'
The Chinese are accused of spying on the European Commission in Brussels
British intelligence tipped off Belgium that China was spying on the European Commission via the Maltese embassy in Brussels, according to French reports.
According to Le Monde, British agents warned their Belgian counterparts that the Chinese were using Malta’s embassy as a “spy tower” to eavesdrop the Commission building, which is in close proximity.
It said that China had covered the €21m bill to buy and refurbish the nine-floor, state-of-the-art embassy building known as “Dar Malta” in 2007.
According to Le Monde, Belgian state security has long accused the embassy of containing surveillance equipment installed by Chinese secret services to monitor European institutions.
Malta denies the report.
The paper cites Belgian security sources as writing: “Chinese intelligence services - the state security ministry and Military Intelligence Directorate (MID) - are seeking notably to exploit splits between EU countries and to be informed of EU projects.
“They want to know about trade decision that could jeopardise their investments.”
It added: “Chinese intelligence service are doing everything possible to influence European political decision-makers in the hope of favouring Chinese interests.”
According to Le Monde, Belgian services were “first tipped off by British intelligence on the presence of Chinese secret services behind the works at the embassy” at an unspecified date.
The paper cites a senior European diplomatic source as saying: “The weakness of certain (EU) states is a danger for everyone. Their great porosity to external meddling is a major problem.
“China is very much on the offensive towards modest states like Malta, that’s for sure, but we also see this strategy in central Europe under the cover of economic and commercial cooperation.”
China’s embassy in Brussels dismissed the allegations as a “fabrication”.
“We know nothing of this affair of renovating Malta’s embassy…China and Europe have bilateral relations based on mutual respect, equality and mutual advantage,” it told the French daily.
The government of Malta denied the report.
In a statement, it said that renovation works in 2007 "were carried out at the expense of the Government of Malta".
It said: "It was only furniture which was donated by the Government of the People’s Republic of China to install, in line with the relevant security procedures, in the Permanent Representation, to which the Government remains thankful."
Moreover, it added: "80 per cent of the mentioned furniture has over the past 2 years been disposed of and replaced by new furniture procured from Malta."
As for spying, it said the building had been "the subject of internal and external audits and found the building to be in the clear" and that its "security system has been overhauled and improved over the past two years".