By Dan Levine
SAN FRANCISCO, March 5 (Reuters) - A U.S. jury on Wednesday convicted a California businessman of stealing DuPont trade secrets to help a state-owned Chinese company develop a white pigment used in a wide range of products.
In a San Francisco federal court, jurors found Walter Liew guilty on multiple counts including conspiracy to commit economic espionage and trade secret theft.
U.S. prosecutors contended Liew paid former DuPont engineers to reveal trade secrets that would help the Chinese company, Pangang Group, develop a white pigment called chloride-route titanium dioxide, also known as TiO2. The pigment is used to make a variety of white-tinted products, including paper, paint and plastics.
Liew's attorney Stuart Gasner said they were "very disappointed" by the verdict.
"Walter Liew is a good man in whom we believe and for whom we will continue to fight," Gasner said.
Defense attorneys argued Liew never intended to benefit the Chinese government, and that the DuPont materials he handled were not trade secrets.
The United States has identified industrial spying as a significant and growing threat. DuPont is the world's largest producer of TiO2.
Prosecutors also charged Pangang Group, a steel manufacturer in Sichuan province, in the case, but that indictment stalled after a U.S. judge ruled that prosecutors' attempts to notify Pangang of the charges were legally insufficient.
The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California is United States of America vs. Walter Liew et al., no. 11-cr-573.