By Ben Blanchard and Nate Raymond
BEIJING/NEW YORK (Reuters) - China's Foreign Ministry on Friday criticized the U.S. indictment of an ex-Air China Ltd employee for smuggling packages on behalf of Chinese military personnel stationed at China's U.N. mission in New York.
Ying Lin, who prosecutors say also helped a Chinese national flee the country last year amid an FBI probe, was charged in an indictment filed in federal court in Brooklyn on Wednesday after being arrested in August 2015 on an earlier charge.
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The new indictment alleged Lin, while working for Air China at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, helped smuggle packages onto flights from Chinese military officers at its U.N. mission and employees at China's consulate.
In return, Lin, 46, received among other things tax-exempt purchases of discounted liquor and electronic devices, the indictment said.
China's Foreign Ministry in a statement to Reuters said it was paying close attention to the case.
"The relevant accusations and insinuations against Chinese diplomatic personnel based in the United States have ulterior motives," the ministry said.
"We want to stress that Chinese diplomatic missions and personnel overseas always respect relevant international treaties and local laws and rules," it added.
Lin, a U.S. citizen, is set to be in court on Tuesday.
"Ms. Lin is a hard-working single mother," Deborah Colson, her lawyer, said on Friday. "The charges against her lack merit, and she looks forward to her day in court."
Lin, who was Air China's station chief at Newark Liberty International Airport, was previously linked to Macau real estate billionaire Ng Lap Seng, who was charged last year over a bribery scheme at the United Nations.
Prosecutors say Ng bribed former U.N. General Assembly President John Ashe to support a U.N.-backed conference center in Macau that his company, Sun Kian Ip Group, would develop.
The new charges against Lin came after Ng's lawyers filed papers showing the Federal Bureau of Investigation asked him if a Chinese associate who owned a $10 million mansion on Long Island, Qin Fei, was involved with foreign intelligence.
Property records list Lin as an agent for Qin's mansion. While her indictment does not identify the Chinese national she allegedly helped flee, the description matches that of Qin, whom Ng called a consultant to Sun Kian.
Qin has not been charged. His lawyer did not responded to requests for comment.
Ashe, a former U.N. ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda, died in June. Ng has pleaded not guilty.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing and Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Robert Birsel and James Dalgleish)