In Stuttgart, four former employees of a local company stand accused of being involved in a startling case of industrial espionage. In Taipei, police have now arrested six people for attempting to sell trade secrets of a German chemical manufacturer.

Charges of industrial espionage brought in Stuttgart
Four former employees of the Stuttgart-based metal printing specialist Koenig & Bauer MetalPrint or KBA-MetalPrint are currently under suspicion of having used business secrets to set up a rival company. The public prosecutor’s office is now bringing charges against them before the Stuttgart District Court for alleged betrayal of company and trade secrets and unauthorized use of copyrighted works.

According to the public prosecutor’s office, the defendants are three former division heads and a former customer service employee of KBA-MetalPrint. They allegedly used construction plans of their former employer to re-create its printing presses and components in a newly-founded rival business. Now the suspects are facing prison sentences of up to five years.

KBA-MetalPrint had already filed a criminal complaint regarding suspected theft of internal documents back in 2013. During subsequent raids, investigators had secured incriminating construction plans and emails. Since then, two former staff of KBA-MetalPrint were already fined for betraying company secrets. However, it is still unclear when the current allegations will be heard in court.

 

Taipei: Six arrested for corporate spying
Police authorities in Taipei struck a blow against a group suspected of corporate espionage: Five former and one current employee of the chemical manufacturer BASF Taiwan allegedly attempted to sell trade secrets to China for large sums of money. A Chinese company is said to have paid the group for information on manufacturing processes and technologies – which were to be used in setting up a new production site in China, according to media reports. Currently, five of the suspects are still in custody; a sixth suspect has been released on bail.

As reported by police, the suspects – among them a senior manager – had already received 1.3 million US dollars (approx. 1.1 million euros) for providing the sensitive data and a further 4.5 million US dollars (approx. 4 million euros) apparently was in store for them. However, the conspiracy was reportedly uncovered before the data theft could be completed.

BASF has not yet commented on the possible extent of the lost data or the resulting potential financial damage caused. In a statement, the company explained that it had taken immediate steps to support local investigations. The incriminated employee was suspended. BASF said it had established various guidelines and countermeasures to protect its intellectual property. However, the company also stated that “in light of this situation, we will further reinforce these information protection systems.”

 

As a recent study by Fraunhofer ISI has shown, many companies dramatically underestimate the threat posed by industrial espionage. According to Fraunhofer’s researchers, the biggest shortcoming in this respect is a failure to raise awareness among employees.

Quellen: Stuttgarter Zeitung, Wirtschaftswoche; Bloomberg, Reuters, BASF