The United States on Tuesday announced charges in five cases involving alleged efforts to steal technology for the advantage of China, Russia, and Iran.
Among the defendants was a former Apple engineer accused of using the company’s technology to attack autonomous systems, such as self-driving vehicles, and then fleeing to China.
The cases discussed at a Justice Department press conference centred on charges of trade secret and other technology theft.
Two of the cases involved procurement networks set up to assist Russia’s military and intelligence services in obtaining sensitive equipment, according to US officials.
The five charges were the first publicised by a US “strike force” launched in February, ostensibly to protect critical technologies, albeit the investigations began before the team was formed.
“We stand vigilant in enforcing U.S. laws to stop the flow of sensitive technologies to our foreign adversaries,” said Matt Olsen, chief of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, telling reporters.
“We are committed to doing all we can to prevent these advanced tools from falling into the hands of foreign adversaries.”
According to an April indictment unsealed on Tuesday, the former Apple engineer, 35-year-old Weibao Wang, had lived in Mountain View, California, and was hired by Apple in 2016.
According to the accusation, he obtained a job in the United States with a Chinese startup working on self-driving cars in 2017 before quitting from Apple, but he delayed roughly four months before telling Apple of his new job.
According to the Justice Department, after his last day at Apple, the firm discovered that he had downloaded huge volumes of proprietary material in the days preceding his leave. Federal authorities searched his residence in June 2018 and discovered “large quantities” of Apple data, according to the report. According to the department, he boarded a plane to China shortly after the search.
In a second China-related case, US authorities charged Liming Li, 64, of Rancho Cucamonga, California, with stealing trade secrets from his California-based employers in order to start his own rival business in China.
Prosecutors in New York charged Nikolaos “Nikos” Bogonikolos, 49, of Greece, with transferring US-origin military technology to Russia while working as a NATO defence contractor.
Oleg Sergeyevich Patsulya and Vasilii Sergeyevich Besedin, both Russian nationals, were indicted in Arizona for allegedly using their Florida-based corporation to send aircraft parts to Russian airline companies, while the Commerce Department revoked their export rights in a concurrent action.
In addition, prosecutors in New York charged Xiangjiang Qiao, also known as Joe Hansen, 39, with using a Chinese business sanctioned by the US to deliver ingredients needed in the production of weapons of mass destruction to Iran.
Qiao and Wang are still at large in China, while the other four defendants have been apprehended, according to US officials.