Sat, Jul 12, 2014 - Page 15 News List

Californian sentenced to 15 years on China spying rap

Reuters, OAKLAND, California

A California businessman was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Thursday for stealing DuPont trade secrets to help a state-owned Chinese company develop a white pigment used in a wide range of products.

A jury earlier this year found Walter Liew (劉元軒) guilty on over 20 criminal counts, including conspiracy to commit economic espionage and trade secret theft. The government had requested a sentence of between 17.5 years and 22 years. Attorneys for Liew, 56, argued he should receive a maximum of eight years.

The US has identified industrial spying as a significant and growing threat to the nation’s prosperity. Prosecutors also charged Pangang Group (攀鋼集團), a steel manufacturer in Sichuan Province, in the Liew case, but that indictment stalled after a US judge ruled that prosecutors’ attempts to notify the Chinese company of the charges were legally insufficient.

At Thursday’s sentencing, US District Judge Jeffrey White said Liew “turned against his adopted country for greed,” adding that a “loud message” must be sent to those looking to steal from US companies.

An attorney for Liew, Stuart Gasner, declined to comment outside court. However, during the hearing, he argued that Liew’s sentence should be limited because the trade secrets at issue were not very valuable to DuPont.

Liew, in custody since the jury returned its verdict, apologized for his actions for what a government lawyer said was the first time.

“I feel terrible about it,” Liew said.

At trial, US prosecutors said Liew met with Chinese officials who directed him to seek technologies that could help the country. He then paid former DuPont employees to reveal trade secrets to help Pangang Group develop a white pigment called chloride-route titanium dioxide the government argued. The pigment is used to make a variety of white-tinted products, including paper, paint and plastics.

Pangang paid Liew’s company US$28 million, according to prosecutors. White ordered that amount of money forfeited to the government, and fined Liew’s company, an engineering consulting firm, about US$19 million.

The judge acknowledged that Liew fought his way out of poverty and was a loving father. However, White said the businessman embarked on “a virtual white-collar crime spree.”

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