USA charges Chinese companies in trade secrets theft

Chinese company charged with stealing trade secrets from US chipmaker

Every individual will face a US$5 million fine and up to 15 years in jail if convicted for economic espionage charges, and 10 years imprisonment for theft of trade secrets charges, according to the indictment.

"China - like any advanced nation - must decide whether it wants to be a trusted partner on the world stage, or whether it wants to be known around the world as a dishonest regime running a corrupt economy founded on fraud, theft and strong-arm tactics", Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a news conference. Chen later became the president of Jinhua and was put in charge of the China-based firm's DRAM production facility.

"If the U.S. side is really concerned, they should provide concrete examples that can withstand the test of evidence and facts", Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular press briefing. UMC said it regretted not having the opportunity to discuss the matter with USA authorities and will respond to the allegations accordingly, adding it expected no impact from the charges on its finances or business.

China and the United States are locked in an escalating trade conflict.

The charges come as the administration of President Donald Trump pursues what it says is the threat of Chinese economic and technology espionage.

The action also follows heightened trade tensions between the U.S. and China as the Trump administration has imposed tariffs on about US$250 billion of Chinese exports since July.

"Micron has invested billions of dollars over decades to develop its intellectual property", Joel Poppen, Micron's general counsel, said in an emailed statement. "The actions announced today reinforce that criminal misappropriation will be appropriately addressed".

The new restrictions mean USA firms will need special approval to export products intended for use by state-owned Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit Company, Ltd., according to a statement.

The development is a continuation of a dramatic pivot by the Trump administration towards a more aggressive posture in bilateral relations with China.

More news: Bus seen crashing off Chinese bridge after fight between passenger and driver

Sessions is ordering the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the department's National Security Division, led by John Demers, to step up enforcement, the official said. China did not possess DRAM capabilities before the alleged theft but had identified its development as a national economic priority, the US said. Chen also hired former MMT employees J.T. Ho and Kenny Wang to allegedly bring trade secrets over from Micron.

The indictment alleges China was interested in gaining access to dynamic random-access memory, or DRAM, a type of technology it did not possess.

UMC is a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange, and Chen served as a chairman of a company that Micron acquired in 2013, the Justice Department said.

The Justice Department said the defendants, including a Chinese-owned company singled out this week by the Trump administration, targeted Idaho-based Micron over a technology it produces that stores memory in electronics.

The attorney general described it as a "brazen scheme" to steal and clone technology in order to compete with the US.

The indictment alleges that the companies and the three individuals conspired to steal trade secrets from Micron, a U.S. semiconductor company worth $100bn (£76bn).

Three Taiwanese nationals also were indicted: Chen Zhengkun, He Jianting, and Wang Yungming.

Late in 2017, Micron took legal action in a USA court against UMC charging that the Taiwanese company had stolen and copied its design and manufacturing technologies.

"This was", said U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California Alex Tse, "some of the most advanced semiconductor technology in the world".

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