Former employee of US DuPont pleads guilty to taking TiO2 tech

02 March 2012 17:00  [Source: ICIS news]

(recast with attribution from court documents)

HOUSTON (ICIS)--A former employee of US-based DuPont pleaded guilty to taking the company's titanium dioxide (TiO2) technology and selling it to a Chinese-state-controlled company, according to a court document obtained on Friday.

Tze Chao faces a maximum sentence of 15 years and a maximum fine of $500,000 (€375,000), the document said.

Chao worked for DuPont for 36 years, and his primary focus was on the TiO2 manufacturing process, he told the court. In connection with his job at DuPont, Chao had access to the company's TiO2 technology.

When Chao retired from DuPont in 2002, he told the company in writing that he returned all of the company's trade secrets and confidential information, he said.

In fact, Chao told the court that he kept some of the information so he could use it in his consulting business.

Chao started that business, Cierra Technology, less than a year after his retirement. He later provided the DuPont information to Pangang Group, the Chinese state-owned enterprise.

Chao is one of several people that the US accused of stealing DuPont's TiO2 technology.

The US accused Walter Liew, a businessman based in California, of acting as a middle man through his company, USA Performance Technology. He allegedly provided the stolen DuPont technology to a Pangang Group subsidiary, which was developing a 100,000 tonne/year TiO2 plant in Chongqing in China.

Liew, a US citizen who was arrested in August, allegedly acquired DuPont's chloride-route TiO2 technology from Robert Maegerle, a process engineer for DuPont from 1956 to 1991, the US said.

Pangang also allegedly received help from Chao, whom it hired as a consultant.

Liew, his wife and business partner Christina Liew, Maegerle and Chao have all been charged with either conspiracy to commit espionage, conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets or both.

In addition, the US filed conspiracy charges against the Pangang Group, along with its subsidiaries Pangang Group Steel Vanadium and Titanium; Pangang Group Titanium Industry; and Pangang Group International Economic & Trading.

The US also charged Hou Shengdong, who served as Pangang Titanium's vice director of the chloride process of TiO2 project department.

In August 2010, DuPont received an anonymous letter indicating that Liew had embezzled the company's TiO2 technology, according to court documents.

In April 2011, DuPont sued Liew, and his company, accusing them of stealing the company's TiO2.

DuPont then referred the alleged theft to law enforcement, which ultimately led to the indictments.

Walter Liew pleaded not guilty to the economic espionage allegations, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Maegerle plans to plead not guilty.

($1 = €0.75)

By: Al Greenwood
+1 713 525 2645

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