Washington: A US federal jury has found two individuals and one company guilty of economic espionage by providing trade secrets to a Chinese competitor controlled by the government.

The jury yesterday found that Walter Lian-Heen Liew, his company, USA Performance Technology Inc. (USAPTI), and Robert Maegerle conspired to steal trade secrets from E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Company regarding their chloride-route titanium dioxide production technology and sold those secrets for large sums of money to state-owned Chinese companies.

The purpose of their conspiracy was to help those companies develop large-scale chloride-route titanium dioxide production capability in the China, including a planned 100,000-ton titanium dioxide factory in Chongqing, the Justice Department said in a statement.

“Fighting economic espionage and trade secret theft is one of the top priorities of this Office and we will aggressively pursue anyone, anywhere who attempts to steal valuable information from the United States,” said US Attorney Melinda Haag.

“The theft of America’s trade secrets for the benefit of a foreign government poses a substantial threat to our economic and national security” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Carlin.

In a statement, the Justice Department said evidence at trial showed that in the 1990s, Liew met with the government of China and was informed that China had prioritised the development of chloride-route titanium dioxide (TiO2) technology.

TiO2 is a commercially valuable white pigment with numerous uses, including coloring paint, plastics, and paper.

DuPont’s TiO2 chloride-route process also produces titanium tetrachloride, a material with military and aerospace uses.

“Liew executed contracts with state-owned entities in China for chloride-route TiO2 projects that relied on the transfer of illegally obtained DuPont technology.

Liew, Maegerle, and USAPTI obtained and sold DuPont’s TiO2 trade secret to the Pangang Group companies for more than USD 20 million,” the statement said.

Tze Chao, a former DuPont employee who was also charged in the second superseding indictment, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit  economic espionage on March 1, 2012.

Hou Shengdong, the vice director of the Chloride Process TiO2 Project Department for the Pangang Group, was also charged in the second superseding indictment with conspiracy to commit economic espionage, conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets, and attempted economic espionage.

He is currently a fugitive.

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