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Couple stole GM secrets for China, says U.S. prosecutor

Published November 6, 2012

A former General Motors Co. engineer and her husband stole trade secrets of the automaker’s related to hybrid-car technology to help develop such vehicles in China, a U.S. prosecutor said at the beginning of their trial.

Shanshan Du, the ex-GM employee, copied the Detroit-based company’s private information on the motor control of hybrids and provided documents to her husband, Yu Qin, the government alleges. Qin used the confidential data to seek business ventures or employment with GM’s competitors, including the Chinese automaker Chery Automobile Co., the U.S. said. General Motors contends the stolen trade secrets are worth more than $40-million U.S., prosecutors said.

“This case is about theft as well as deceit,” prosecutor Michael Martin said in a federal court in Detroit in opening statements for the trial. The defendants are “partners in life, partners in business and partners in crime,” he said.

The defendants aren’t guilty, the couple’s lawyers said in their opening. The items at issue weren’t trade secrets and were “completely useless” for other companies, Frank Eaman, Qin’s lawyer said.

The case is one of more than a dozen brought in the past three years by the U.S. Justice Department alleging defendants of Chinese ancestry or citizenship sought to take trade secrets from U.S.-based companies for use by the Chinese government or businesses.

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