US prosecutors expanded a criminal case over the alleged theft of industrial secrets from chemical giant DuPont, securing an indictment against a Chinese company on economic espionage-related charges.
A Northern California grand jury indicted Pangang Group (攀鋼集團) for conspiracy to commit economic espionage and other charges, including conspiracy to steal trade secrets, according to court documents unsealed on Wednesday.
Pangang, a state-owned steel manufacturer in Sichuan Province, allegedly worked with a California businessman and others to obtain several valuable trade secrets from DuPont, the indictment says.
Separately, a former engineer for Motorola Inc was found guilty on Wednesday of stealing trade secrets from the company, but cleared of economic espionage for China.
The latest developments in the two cases come as Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平) is scheduled to visit the US next week on a range of economic, trade, regional and global issues.
Jin Hanjuan (金漢娟) had been charged with illegally possessing thousands of Motorola’s trade secrets on her computer and in other forms of digital storage, and prosecutors said she intended to pass the information to the Chinese military.
Jin was found guilty by a Chicago federal judge on three counts of theft of trade secrets after a bench trial and faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison on each count.
California businessman Walter Liew has already been in custody for several months on witness tampering charges related to the DuPont allegations. Liew and his wife, Christina, also face charges of conspiracy to commit economic espionage and other counts in the latest indictment.
Lawyers for Walter and Christina Liew could not be reached for comment. Tom Nolan, a lawyer for Walter Liew, has previously maintained that his client only possessed publicly available information, not trade secrets from DuPont.
Three of Pangang’s subsidiaries are also named in the indictment, along with a Chinese citizen who worked for that company. Attempts to reach Pangang were not successful on Wednesday.
Liew, a US citizen, allegedly paid former DuPont engineers for assistance in designing chloride-route titanium dioxide, also known as TiO2, according to the indictment. DuPont is the world’s largest producer of the white pigment used to make a range of white-tinted products, including paper, paint and plastics.
Two former DuPont engineers were also indicted on Wednesday. DuPont general counsel Thomas Sager said the company was disappointed that former DuPont employees allegedly stole technology. The company filed a civil suit against Liew and referred the theft to law enforcement, Sager said.
The US has identified industrial spying as a significant and growing threat to the nation’s prosperity. In a government report released in November, authorities cited China as “the world’s most active and persistent perpetrators of economic espionage.”