Five former employees of Inotera Memories Inc (華亞科) have been charged with allegedly passing confidential trade secrets from their former employer to a Chinese semiconductor firm last year, the Taoyuan District Prosecutors’ Office said yesterday.
US memorychip maker Micron Technology Inc, which previously owned a 33 percent stake in Inotera, in October last year agreed to pay NT$132.5 billion (US$4.39 billion at the current exchange rate) to buy the remaining 67 percent stake in Inotera from Nanya Technology Corp (南亞科技) and a subsidiary of Formosa Plastics Group (台塑集團).
The deal was completed in December, after which Inotera became known as Micron Technology Taiwan Inc.
The five defendants, who were mid-level management employees or high-level engineers, all joined a Chinese semiconductor firm after resigning from Inotera one after the other in September to November last year, prosecutors said in a statement.
Prosecutors said Inotera suspected that the five stole classified internal documents after they were all recruited by the same Chinese firm.
The prosecutors did not give the name of the Chinese company, but the Chinese-language United Evening News said it was the Chinese government-backed Tsinghua Unigroup Ltd (清華紫光), citing anonymous sources in the prosecutors’ office.
The daily said that Tsinghua Unigroup has a record of poaching Taiwanese working for semiconductor firms as China develops its own semiconductor industry.
The five suspects breached Inotera’s regulations by taking photographs of operational information regarding the company’s clean room and making paper copies of its confidential trade documents, prosecutors said in the statement.
One suspect, surnamed Fan (范), allegedly sent the photographs and documents via his e-mail and WeChat accounts to the Chinese company when he was still working at Inotera, they said.
The five were paid a monthly salary of at least NT$200,000 as a reward by the Chinese company, three times their Inotera salaries, prosecutors said.
The Chinese-language China Times reported that the Taoyuan prosecutors stopped the suspects at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport in February, seizing their smartphones, notebook computers and bank passbooks.
The five have been charged with contravening the Trade Secrets Act (營業秘密法) and the Criminal Code, the prosecutors said, adding that their office has asked the court to retrieve any money the five received for passing trade secrets.
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