By Bobeth Yates

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Governor Ron DeSantis has signed into law two bills aimed at combatting foreign influence and corporate espionage in Florida.

DeSantis said the Communist Party of China has played a major role in trademark infringement and miss information. He pointed to the coronavirus pandemic as proof, bringing up the unproven theory that COVID-19 leaked from a lab in China.

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“With the coronavirus pandemic and the cover-up of the origins of COVID-19, it’s pretty clear that this was a virus that almost assuredly leaked out of this lab in Wu Han. This is a lab where these scientists were working very closely with the Communist Party of China, as well as the Chinese military. When you had these folks fall ill who are working in that lab last fall, the Communist Party of China decided to cover it up,” he said.

DeSantis said they need to be held accountable for this.

“So I think what this exposed is, you do have relationships between a lot of these institutions in China, particularly in the research realm, and bureaucrats in the United States,” he said.

Representative Chris Sprowls says the new laws will protect the business and education research from trade secret thieves

“Whether it’s medical, bio medical technology, cancer research, defense materials, all of these things are vulnerable from foreign influence and espionage by the Chinese government,” he said.

The congressman pointed to a specific example in the states education system

“In Orlando, there was a researcher working on autonomous submarine parts who had an undisclosed relationship and when he was confronted he fled from his wife and family back to China. Subsequently, his research assistant was indicted for exporting autonomous submarine part back to China,” said Sprowls.

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“I think if you look right now, there is no single entity that exercises a more pervasive nefarious influence across a wide range of American industries and institutions than the Communist Party of China. Academia in the United States is permeated with influence. You have researchers getting indicted. This is very common to see researchers and major institutions, including in Florida, and also around the country, getting indicted for being in cahoots with the Chinese government,” said DeSantis.

The governor gave examples of those indicted for helping China.

He said a University of Florida researcher was indicted for taking grant money from us for his company in China. In September 2020, a Jacksonville woman pled guilty to trying to illegally export engines to China. In February 2020, Illinois court awarded Motorola $764 million in a case after an engineer stole thousands of confidential documents and millions of lines of code to benefit a Chinese company.

The governor said prior to the law the state had trouble prosecuting those who stole intellectual property for universities in the state but now violate the law could face up to 15 years in jail.

He added that as of the beginning of this past year, the FBI is investigating a thousand cases of theft of U.S. technology.

“In Florida, we’re gonna take a stand. These bills I’m signing into law today, foreign adversaries will not have access to our schools, government, and companies like they have in the past, not the Communist Party of China, not Russia, not Cuba, not North Korea, not Iran, not Syria, not Venezuela. In fact, the first bill that I signed today safeguards our public institutions from undue Florent foreign influence,” he said.

“Beyond prohibiting direct deals with these adversarial governments, the bill also makes sure we don’t make deals with private companies that are closely tied to these foreign adversaries. The bill also makes sure all nation-states, corporations, organizations, and individuals seeking to engage with colleges and universities are fully vetted,” he added.

The governor also signed a bill that creates new criminal offenses in Florida for the theft and trafficking of trade secrets.

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“Anyone who willfully without authorization steals or attempts to steal a trade secret, and use it for their own benefit will now face a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. If the same person tries to sell the stolen trade secret, they’ll face a second-degree felony with even more penalties,” he said.