US accuses 3 Taiwanese engineers of stealing Micron secrets for China

3 Taiwanese first charged with corporate espionage under Trump's 'China initiative'

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(UMC photo)

(UMC photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — In the first enforcement of Trump's "China initiative," a U.S. federal court has issued arrest warrants for three Taiwanese nationals accused of stealing trade secrets for China.

A federal court in San Francisco on June 25 issued warrants for Ho Chien-ting (何建廷), Wang Yong-ming (王永銘), and Fujian Jinhua president Stephen Chen (陳正坤), reported TechNews. Ho and Wang were convicted by a Taichung district court of violating the Trade Secrets Act (營業秘密法) on June 12 by providing trade secrets from Idaho-based Micron Technology Inc. to Taiwan's United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC, 聯電) and its Chinese partner Fujian Jinhua.

The federal magistrate judge issued the warrants after the three failed to appear in court. This is the first court case under Trump's “China initiative,” which was designed to tackle trade-secret theft, hacking, and economic espionage.

The three men are wanted by the U.S. Department of Justice for allegedly helping Fujian Jinhua steal patented technology from Micron Technology. Ho, Wang, and another UMC engineer, Rong Le-tien (戎樂天), were charged in 2017 for violating Taiwan's Trade Secrets Act for sharing Micron's business information with Fujian's Jinhua during a cooperation project with UMC.

The U.S. Department of Justice in November of 2018, announced that Ho, Wang, and Chen had been charged with conspiring to steal trade secrets from Micron, reported CNA. On June 12, a Taichung District Court found Ho, Wang, and Rong guilty of violating the Trade Secrets Act and sentenced Rong to six years and six months, Ho to five years and six months, and Wang to four years and six months, with the three also being levied fines of NT$6 million, NT$5 million, and NT$4 million, respectively.

Although Taiwan and China do not have extradition agreements with the U.S., legal experts suggest that Washington and Taipei may yet reach a deal to extradite the men to face justice in the U.S. Both UMC and Fujian Jinhua have pleaded not guilty, but if their employees are convicted in a U.S. court, they could face prison sentences and the companies could face up to US$20 billion in fines.