USA charges Chinese state-owned chipmaker with economic espionage

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a news conference to announce a criminal law enforcement action involving China at the Department of Justice in Washington Thursday Nov. 1 2018

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a news conference to announce a criminal law enforcement action involving China at the Department of Justice in Washington Thursday Nov. 1 2018

The latest case was made public as the Justice Department announced a new initiative to respond to Chinese efforts to obtain US technology and trade secrets, whether through hacking or theft by insiders. In its accusation, the Department guarantees that China's Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit Co. what's more, Taiwan's United Microelectronics Corp. Ltd., for the express objective of developing DRAM technology and sought to learn trade secrets through the criminal acts of former employees of Micron's Taiwan branch. The Justice Department also filed a civil lawsuit to stop those stolen trade secrets from spreading, Sessions said.

"Nothing more will be tolerated". We're not going to take it anymore.

Prior to the plot, USA prosecutors said, neither the Chinese nor the Taiwanese company had any DRAM production capability.

As indicated by the Department, these endeavors to steal trade secrets range crosswise over businesses. "It is time for China to join the community of lawful nations".

Two of those charged are former employees of Micron's Taiwan unit who have now also been indicted for trade secret theft by the U.S. Department of Justice.

On the Micron case, Sessions said the company is worth an estimated $100 billion and controls up to 25 percent of the DRAM industry and noted China did not have DRAM technology until very recently. "Micron has invested billions of dollars over decades to develop its intellectual property".

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Micron, based in Idaho, is the only USA -based company that manufactures DRAM.

It said the three Taiwanese men - Stephen Chen Zhengkun, He Jianting and Kenny Wang Yungming - all previously worked at Micron and stole its technology when they joined UMC with the express objective of transferring it to Fujian Jinhua, a two-year-old firm.

In what Trump called a "favour" to Chinese President Xi Jinping, he lifted the ban in exchange for US$1.4 billion in penalties paid by ZTE.

The Department of Commerce took similar actions on Monday when the agency restricted exports to Fujian Jinhua, calling the company a national security risk.

Prior to the events described in the indictment, the PRC did not possess DRAM technology, and the Central Government and State Council of the PRC publicly identified the development of DRAM and other microelectronics technology as a national economic priority.

The indictment charged that the Chinese operation involved the downloading of over 900 Micron confidential and proprietary files that were stolen.

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In addition, the Justice Department announced an initiative to target Chinese economic espionage by identifying priority cases and ensuring there are enough resources available.

The charges against Jinhua and UMC follow a string of government cases against individuals accused of attempting to steal information on behalf of China.

"No country presents a broader, more severe threat to our ideas, our innovation, and our economic security than China", said Wray.

In December 2017, Micron filed suit against UMC and Jinhua in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California for the misappropriation of Micron intellectual property and trade secrets.

"UMC regrets that the U.S. Attorney's Office brought these charges without first notifying UMC and giving it an opportunity to discuss the matter", the company said.

"We are committed to continuing to work closely with our federal, state, local, and private sector partners to counter this threat from China".

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