The US has charged a former Apple engineer accused of stealing the company’s technology on autonomous systems, including self-driving cars, and then fleeing to China.
The department of justice on Tuesday announced charges in that case and several others involving the alleged theft of trade secrets and efforts to steal technology to benefit China, Russia and Iran.
Two of the cases involved what US officials called procurement networks created to help Russia’s military and intelligence services obtain sensitive technology.
“We stand vigilant in enforcing US laws to stop the flow of sensitive technologies to our foreign adversaries,” Matt Olsen, the head of the justice department’s national security division, told reporters. “We are committed to doing all we can to prevent these advanced tools from falling into the hands of foreign adversaries.”
The former Apple engineer, identified as 35-year-old Weibao Wang, previously resided in Mountain View, California, and was hired by Apple in 2016, according to an April indictment unsealed on Tuesday.
In 2017, he accepted a US-based job with a Chinese company working to develop self-driving cars before resigning from Apple, but waited about four months before informing Apple of his new job, according to the indictment.
After his last day at Apple, the company discovered that he had accessed large amounts of proprietary data in the days before his departure, the justice department said. Federal agents searched his home in June 2018 and found “large quantities” of data from Apple, it added. Shortly after the search, he boarded a plane to China, the department said.
Apple’s automotive efforts, known as Project Titan, have proceeded unevenly since 2014, when the company started to design a vehicle from scratch. A December report said Apple had postponed the car’s planned launch to 2026. Reports filed with the state of California show Apple is testing vehicles on the state’s roads.
Apple declined to comment on the case.
US prosecutors also announced charges against Liming Li, 64, of Rancho Cucamonga, California, for allegedly stealing trade secrets from his California-based employers to build his own competing business in China.
Prosecutors in New York charged Nikolaos Bogonikolos, 49, of Greece with smuggling US-origin military technologies to Russia while he was operating as a defense contractor for Nato.
Russian nationals Oleg Sergeyevich Patsulya and Vasilii Sergeyevich Besedin were each charged in Arizona for allegedly using their Florida-based company to send aircraft parts to Russian airline companies, while the commerce department in a parallel action suspended their export privileges.
In addition, prosecutors in New York announced charges against Xiangjiang Qiao, also known as Joe Hansen, 39, for allegedly using a Chinese company that is the target of American sanctions to provide materials used in the production of weapons of mass destruction to Iran.
Qiao and Wang remain at large in China, while the other four defendants were arrested, US officials said.