Experts from the Chinese laboratory at the centre of global suspicion over the coronavirus pandemic have ‘defected’ and are in the hands of Western intelligence, the architect of Donald Trump’s presidential victory claimed last night.
Steve Bannon, who was Trump’s White House chief strategist and retains close links to the administration, told The Mail on Sunday that spies were building a case against Beijing on the basis that the global pandemic had been caused by a leak from the Institute of Virology in Wuhan and that the subsequent cover-up had amounted to ‘pre-meditated murder’.
In an exclusive interview, Mr Bannon also urged Boris Johnson to scrap plans to allow the Chinese communications firm Huawei to play a role in the UK’s new 5G network.
The Prime Minister is due to make an announcement within days over Huawei’s future, which is expected to lead to the company’s equipment being stripped from the 5G programme within the next decade.
Mr Bannon, 66, who worked as a naval officer, investment banker and film producer before becoming chief executive officer of Trump’s presidential campaign, describes himself as an ‘ultra-hawk’ on China, arguing that Western countries should work together to bring down the ‘brutal, authoritarian’ regime.
His incendiary claims about the source of the virus, which has so far claimed more than 560,000 lives worldwide, came as Western governments gather growing evidence to challenge Beijing’s original claim that the infection first spread from a market.
Even the Chinese government’s own Centre for Disease Control and Prevention recently admitted that the virus had been brought in to the market, rather than originating there.
Mr Bannon, who has been tipped by the US media for a return to Trump’s inner circle to shore up his faltering campaign for re-election, said: ‘I know that certain defectors are working with the FBI here to try to knit together what happened’ in the Wuhan institute, which he said was ‘horribly run and terribly mismanaged’.
He claimed: ‘They are not talking to the media yet, but there are people out of the Wuhan lab and other labs that have come to the West and are turning over evidence of the culpability of the Chinese Communist Party. I think people are going to be shocked’.
Mr Bannon, who sat on the US National Security Council during his time in the White House, says spies are trying to assemble a case that the virus spread as the result of an accident involving experiments to develop vaccines and therapeutic drugs to deal with Sars-style viruses.
Speaking to this newspaper from a yacht off the East coast of America, Mr Bannon said that defectors were talking to the intelligence agencies in America, Europe and the UK.
He said: ‘I think that they [spy agencies] have electronic intelligence, and that they have done a full inventory of who has provided access to that lab. I think they have very compelling evidence. And there have also been defectors.
‘People around these labs have been leaving China and Hong Kong since mid-February. [US intelligence] along with MI5 and MI6 are trying to build a very thorough legal case, which may take a long time. It’s not like James Bond.’
Mr Bannon even suggested that the French government, which helped to build the institute, had left behind monitoring systems after Beijing shut them out of the project before it opened in 2017.
He said: ‘The thing was built with French help, so don’t think that there aren’t some monitoring devices in there. I think what you are going to find out is that these guys were doing experiments which they weren’t fully authorised [for] or knew what they were doing and that somehow, either through an inadvertent mistake, or on a lab technician, one of these things got out.
‘It’s not that hard for these viruses to get out. That is why these labs are so dangerous.
‘You essentially had a biological Chernobyl in Wuhan, but the centre of gravity, the Ground Zero, was round the Wuhan lab, in terms of the casualty rates. And like Chernobyl, you also had the cover-up – the state apparatus reports to itself and just protects itself.’
‘We are in the most extraordinary crisis in modern American history, more than Vietnam, the Cold War, even the Second World War. A global pandemic and an economic inferno. I have no faith in the WHO, the leadership should face criminal charges and be shut down.’
The Chinese government dismisses claims of a laboratory leak as a ‘conspiracy theory’ and denies any cover-up. The WHO denies any complicity in a cover up.
When he was asked whether Mr Johnson should scrap plans to allow Huawei into the UK’s 5G system, Mr Bannon said that the company was part of the ‘military wing of the Chinese communist party’ and the deal should be axed.
‘We could cut off Huawei and return British Telecom to its former glory,’ he said. ‘The President thinks that it is a huge issue. To me, Huawei should be shut down throughout the world in every country, and their assets liquidated. I say to Boris Johnson – shut down Huawei, and keep calm and carry on.’
As reported in The Daily Mail: