Two convicted in DuPont TiO2 stolen trade secrets investigation

05 March 2014 22:34  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--A former executive with a now defunct California company and a former DuPont engineer were convicted by a jury on Wednesday of numerous felony charges stemming from allegations that he took part in the theft of trade secrets for making titanium dioxide (TiO2).

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

Liew, owner of the former USA Performance Technology, was convicted on 22 counts that included charges of conspiracy to commit economic espionage, conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets, possession of trade secrets, conveying trade secrets, witness tampering and filing false tax returns.

Maegerle, a former DuPont engineer, was convicted of conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets, attempted theft of trade secrets, conveying trade secrets and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses and evidence.

After the verdict was read on Wednesday morning in US District Court in San Francisco, Liew and Maegerle were remanded to the custody of the US Marshal Service pending sentencing, according to court documents.

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.

Liew’s wife, Christina, also faces charges in the trade secrets investigation.

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 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 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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