TAIPEI (CNA) – Six former and present employees of the Taiwan subsidiary of German chemical giant BASF have been arrested on suspicion of stealing the company’s trade secrets and transferring the technology to a Chinese company.
The Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) received a tip-off early last year that senior executives at BASF Taiwan Ltd. were stealing trade secrets from the company and selling them to a Chinese competitor, CIB official Lu Sung-hao (呂松浩) said Monday.
BASF produces chemical solutions used in semiconductor manufacturing processes and supplies electronic materials to leading semiconductor manufacturers in Taiwan and abroad.
After the case was reported to the Taoyuan District Prosecutors Office, police launched an investigation and searched BASF Taiwan.
At the heart of the case was a BASF competitor in China that wanted to set up a factory similar to BASF’s in Jiangsu province.
Looking for help, the company hired a 56-year-old retired head of BASF’s Taoyuan factory surnamed Lin in 2017 by offering him a monthly salary of 90,000 Chinese yuan (US$13,383), Lu said.
Lin then poached several engineers from the Taoyuan factory to join the planned Chinese factory, according to the CIB official.
At the same, a senior executive surnamed Huang who still works at the Taoyuan factory and was responsible for setting it up was accused of stealing key technologies and manufacturing processes and handing them over to the Chinese company in exchange for big payments.
After a lengthy investigation, police in October and November 2018 found NT$40 million (US$1.3 million) in overseas bank accounts held by the six former and current BASF engineers that apparently came from the Chinese company, Lu said.
The engineers were paid a total of NT$200 million by the Chinese, according to the CIB.
Police waited for the five engineers working in China to return to Taiwan for the New Year holiday to arrest them along with Huang, Lu said.
They found that the key technology for producing chemical solutions used in semiconductor manufacturing processes and the flow charts of the manufacturing processes, worth an estimated 100 million euros (NT$3.53 billion), were delivered to the Chinese company.
The case has been handed over to prosecutors.
BASF Taiwan would only say in a statement Monday that an employee suspected of intellectual property infringement is being investigated and has been suspended from duty.
By Huang Li-yun, Pan Chih-yi and Evelyn Kao