More Details in DuPont Trade Secrets Case

An excellent follow-up from the San Jose Mercury News on the Chinese economic espionage case breaking open in the Northern District of California.

The case concerns DuPont’s secret process for manufacturing titanium dioxide, a compound that makes products white (think paper, toothpaste, and even the inside of Oreo cookies, according to the Mercury News).

According to prosecutors, China was desperate to get hold of the process and, starting in the 1990’s, created a company to steal it. Walter and Christina Liew, a Northern California couple, set out to get the goods. According to the indictment, they approached a former DuPont employee who claims that they “overtly appealed to my Chinese ethnicity and asked me to work for the good of the PRC.”

The plot unraveled with an anonymous letter to DuPont. It filed suit and contacted the FBI. The FBI raised the Liews’ home and found a “trove” of incriminating documents in a safe deposit box. Walter Liew is now being held without bail as a flight risk.

The Chinese company defendant, Pangang Group Co., has a fully operational facility in China manufacturing titanium dioxide the DuPont way. (The picture above is from the China Times which identifies it as the site.)

The criminal case is obviously in its early stages, but this one has the hallmarks of a potential international incident.