U.S. businessman convicted in DuPont economic espionage case

SAN FRANCISCO Wed Mar 5, 2014 3:43pm EST

A view of the Dupont logo on a sign at the Dupont Chestnut Run Plaza facility near Wilmington, Delaware, April 17, 2012. REUTERS/Tim Shaffer

A view of the Dupont logo on a sign at the Dupont Chestnut Run Plaza facility near Wilmington, Delaware, April 17, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Tim Shaffer

SAN FRANCISCO (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.

(Reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)

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Comments (8)
brotherkenny4 wrote:
TiO2 is a pretty standard paint pigment and I doubt Dupont’s TiO2 or process are that good. It may be more of a cost of production thing. Also, it doesn’t take much to just look closely at the pigment morphology and specific content to figure out what Dupont is doing without breaking the law. I suspect the lawyers and judges are just doing what Dupont tells them, because I doubt the lawyers and judges have a clue as to what is real here. Anyway, what I am trying to say is that it makes no sense to steal secrets about TiO2 because you don’t have to. But hey, that’s america, too dumb to know what is important and too easily swayed by fakery to do anything important.

Mar 05, 2014 4:30pm EST  --  Report as abuse
AlkalineState wrote:
He was not a spy. He was a ‘pigment formula whistle blower.’

Mar 05, 2014 5:03pm EST  --  Report as abuse
willich6 wrote:
China ruthlessly steals intellectual property around the world – this is a standard play book for them, since they are terrible at innovation. The sad thing here is that the Chinese-American will go to jail, while the Chinese company gets off scot free – with Dupont’s technology.
As a nation, the US is soon going to have to draw a line in the sand, and refuse to do business with them.. We import much more from China than we export, and while it will cause hardship in some industries it will also promote more ‘made in the USA’…

Mar 05, 2014 5:45pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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