Case underscores mounting problems with Chinese industrial espionage.
by Paul A. Eisenstein on Apr.14, 2011
A former Ford engineer will be spending as much as six years behind bars after being convicted of stealing trade secrets with the intent of selling them to the Chinese.
Xiang Dong Yu, arrested in October 2009, will also have to pay a $12,500 fine after pleading guilty to two felony counts in U.S. District Court.
The Ford case underscores growing concerns about Chinese industrial espionage – thought the outcome stands in sharp contrast to the spy scandal that embroiled French automaker Renault and has led to the ousting of five senior executives, including the maker’s chief operating officer.
The 49-year-old Yu worked at Ford from 1997 through 2007. According to government prosecutors, he accepted another position with Beijing Automotive Industry Corp., in December 2006. But before notifying Ford – which routinely escorts employees out of the building once they take a competitive job – Yu copied at least 4,000 Ford documents onto an external hard drive.
The documents, some quite sensitive, covered a range of topics, including electric power supplies, engines and transmission systems. In all, prosecutors claim, the stolen material was worth millions of dollars.