Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Chinese-Born US Citizen Charged with Economic Espionage

A corporate-espionage trial began on Monday (November 7) for Hanjuan Jin, 41, a Chinese-born American accused of stealing secrets from Schaumburg, IL-based Motorola, Inc. knowing they would eventually end up in the hands of China’s military.

Prosecutors have also alleged that the former Motorola software engineer bought a one-way ticket to China in 2007 and was stopped at O’Hare International Airport (ORD) carrying 1,000 documents she had downloaded from her computer at her Motorola office. Suprisingly, the defendant has requested that the federal judge in the case determine her guilt or innocence, rather than having it determined by a jury.

Jin is accused of downloading hundreds of documents from Motorola Inc., including ones the company asserts are trade secrets of cellular technology, as she negotiated a job in China with a competing firm, SunKaisens. “The documents make clear the Chinese military wanted to take advantage of civil, cellular technology,” according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Stetler.

The customs agent who stopped her at ORD in 2007 as she attempted to board a Beijing-bound flight, testified that Jin looked “a bit surprised” when he asked her to show him the $10,000 in cash she claimed on boarding documents. He then searched her belongings and turned up more than $20,000 more in undisclosed cash, he testified. That search led to discovery of all of the Motorola documents described above.

Jin’s defense centers on the actual documents that the government says are trade secrets. Referred to only as exhibits “1, 2 and 3” for confidential reasons, Jin's defense team contends that such documents do not properly fall under protected trade secrets. Jin’s lawyers conceded that she “was not a good employee” and she did take the documents from Motorola at a time while she was consulting for free with SunKaisens in the hopes of landing a job with the Chinese firm.

COMMENT: Jin's defense attorney Beth Gaus concedes her client violated Motorola policy, but emphasized that Jin merely wanted the documents to refresh her technical knowledge after a long medical absence. Even for an eight-year-old, such a defense is preposterous considering that Jin was boarding a one-way flight to China with 1,000 Motorola documents in her possession and a new job with one of Motorola's major competitors.

It is noteworthy to point out that the majority of cases that have been tried under the Economic Espionage Act of 1996 have involved ethnic Chinese as defendants, many of them naturalized US citizens.

What is most strange is that the majority of the Chinese-born defendants, even those who are American citizens, see absolutely nothing wrong or illegal about passing US trade secrets to the Chinese government. In that case, perhaps they should never have sworn allegiance to the US or left China.

The FBI has placed economic espionage on both a national and local level second on its list of priorities, right after combating terrorism.

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