Man accused of stealing DuPont TiO2 secrets now facing 20 charges

14 March 2013 17:23  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--A former executive with a now defunct California company faces 20 felony charges amid allegations that he took part in the theft of trade secrets for making titanium dioxide (TiO2), according to court documents obtained on Thursday.

The US has accused Walter Liew of playing a major role in stealing DuPont’s TiO2 technology and selling it to Pangang Group, a company controlled by the Chinese government.

Additional federal indictments handed up this week against Liew include allegations of filing false tax returns for his company, USA Performance Technology, from 2006-2010, as well as perjury charges pertaining to the company’s bankruptcy proceedings in 2009.

Liew now faces two counts of conspiracy to commit economic espionage, one of attempted economic espionage and one of attempted theft of trade secrets. He also faces three counts of possession of trade secrets and one of conveying trade secrets, aiding and abetting, as well as one count of conspiracy to tamper with witnesses and evidence, one of witness tampering and one of conspiracy to tamper with evidence.

Also on the list are five counts of filing false tax returns, two of false statements in bankruptcy proceedings, one of false oath in bankruptcy proceedings and one of false statements in a matter within the jurisdiction of the executive branch, aiding and abetting.

Robert Maegerle, a former DuPont engineer, faces four felony charges in the case, while Liew’s wife, Christina Liew, faces nine charges as well.

All three have pleaded not guilty to the allegations.

Another former DuPont employee, Tze Chao, pleaded guilty in March 2012 to one count of conspiracy to commit economic espionage, saying he provided trade secrets regarding the company’s TiO2 manufacturing process to Pangang.

Walter Liew was an owner and president of Oakland, California-based USA Performance Technology, while Christina Liew was an owner and executive of the company.

US prosecutors say the California businessman acted as a middle man through his company to provide stolen DuPont technology to a Pangang subsidiary, which was developing a 100,000 tonne/year TiO2 plant in Chongqing, China.

Walter Liew allegedly acquired DuPont's chloride-route TiO2 technology from Maegerle, a process engineer for DuPont from 1956 to 1991, prosecutors said.

Pangang also allegedly received help from Chao, whom it hired as a consultant after he left DuPont in 2002.

The US has previously filed conspiracy charges against Pangang, along with three 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 vice director of the chloride process of Pangang Titanium's TiO2 project department.

In August 2010, DuPont received an anonymous letter indicating that Walter Liew had taken 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 production information.

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

Additional reporting by Al Greenwood

By: Jeremy Pafford
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