|Convicted Malaysian sold DuPont trade secrets for US$20m
The US is determined to pursue anyone who steals intellectual property from the country and its companies, a state of California lawyer said after a court convicted Malaysia-born businessman Walter Liew of selling trade secrets stolen from chemicals behemoth DuPont to a state-owned mainland Chinese company.
“Fighting economic espionage and trade secret theft is one of the top priorities of this office [northern district of California], and we will aggressively pursue anyone, anywhere, who attempts to steal valuable information from the United States,'' US Attorney Melinda Haag said in a statement, AFP reports.
“Foreign governments threaten our economic and national security by engaging in aggressive and determined efforts to steal US intellectual property.''
The conviction of Walter Liew Lian-heen, 56, (also known as Liu Yuanxuan) marked the first federal jury conviction on charges brought under the Economic Espionage Act of 1996.
Prosecutors said Liew paid former DuPont engineer Robert Maegerle to provide trade secrets to help China's state-owned Pangang Group companies develop chloride-route titanium dioxide, or TiO2. The white pigment helps produce white-tinted materials such as paper and plastic.
Maegerle and Liew's company USA Performance Technology Inc., or USAPTI, were also convicted of stealing trade secrets from EI du Pont de Nemours and Company, among other charges.
After a seven-week trial, the men and the company were also found guilty of economic espionage, bankruptcy fraud, tax evasion and obstruction of justice.
Prosecutors said Liew sold the information for more than US$20 million to Pangang Group so its companies could develop large-scale production capability using the process in China, including a planned 100,000-tonne TiO2 factory in the industrial hub of Chongqing.
Sentencing hearings are set for June 10 before US District Judge Jeffery White in Oakland, California.
Liew and Maegerle, 78, face a minimum of 25 years in prison for the two most serious charges.
Maegerle developed detailed knowledge of the DuPont's TiO2 technology and trade secrets while he worked there as an engineer for 35 years. He then provided the trade secrets to Liew and USAPTI to fulfill their contracts with state-owned Chinese companies.
Pangang Group vice director Hou Shengdong was also charged along with Liew's Chinese wife Christina. He is on the run. Christina Liew faces charges of conspiracy to commit economic espionage, conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets, attempted theft of trade secrets, possession of trade secrets, witness tampering, conspiracy to tamper with evidence and false statements.