Chinese engineer allegedly stole secrets from Apple's self-driving car project
A new case of corporate espionage has surfaced in the US, and the FBI has accused a Chinese national of stealing trade secrets from Apple. It has been alleged that Chinese engineer Jizhong Chen attempted to take confidential material from Apple's secret self-driving car project out of the country. Chen was arrested last week. Here are the details.
Chen first came under suspicion earlier this month when a colleague reported seeing the engineer taking photos of Apple's secret self-driving car project with a wide-angle lens. Subsequently, Apple launched an investigation, which found more than 2,000 confidential files on Chen's personal computer. The investigation also found that Chen had taken photos of confidential information displayed on his work computer screen.
The Chinese engineer had almost gotten away with it too, but was arrested last week as he was about to board a flight to China. However, he was later released after surrendering his passport and posting $100,000 in bail. Reportedly, after his arrest, Chen admitted to the FBI that he had also backed up his Apple work computer to a personal hard drive.
Notably, this is the second such case involving Apple's self-driving car project. In July last year, another Chinese engineer, Xiaolang Zhang, was arrested and charged with stealing trade secrets from Apple's self-driving car project. Zhang came under Apple's scanner and was caught when he said he was leaving to work for Xiaopeng Motors, a Chinese electric vehicle start-up. However, Zhang pleaded not guilty.
The current case also comes at a time when tensions between the US and China are increasing. Just days back, Chinese smartphone manufacturer Huawei and its CFO Meng Wanzhou was charged with multiple financial crimes in the US, including the theft of trade secrets from T Mobile, bank fraud, and obstruction of justice. Huawei, however, has denied all charges.