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Factories turn into new espionage dens

world Updated: Oct 19, 2010 00:23 IST
Christopher Drew
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For five years, Huang was a scientist at a Dow Chemical lab in Indiana, studying ways to improve insecticides. But before he was fired in 2008, Huang began sharing Dow’s secrets with Chinese researchers, authorities say, then obtained grants from a state-run foundation in China with the goal of starting a rival business there.

Now, Huang, who was born in China and is a legal US resident, faces a rare criminal charge — that he engaged in economic espionage on China’s behalf.

Law enforcement officials say the kind of spying Huang is accused of represents a new front in the battle for a global economic edge. As China and other countries broaden their efforts to obtain Western technology, American industries beyond the traditional military and high-tech targets risk having valuable secrets exposed by their own employees, court records show.

Rather than relying on dead drops and secret directions from government handlers, the new trade in business secrets seems much more opportunistic, federal prosecutors say, and occurs in loose, underground markets throughout the world.

Prosecutors say it is difficult to prove links to a foreign government, but intelligence officials say China, Russia and Iran are among the countries pushing hardest to obtain the latest technologies.

Over the last year, other charges involving the theft of trade secrets ,have been filed against former engineers from General Motors and Ford who had business ties to China. Scientists at the DuPont Company and Valspar, a Minnesota paint company, recently pleaded guilty to stealing their employer’s secrets after taking jobs in China. NYT