France charges four for handing China, Russia secret tech on semiconductors

The accused knowingly circumvented rules to deliver powerful chips and information on sensitive technology to China and Russia.
Image used for representational purposes only. (Photo | Pixabay)
Image used for representational purposes only. (Photo | Pixabay)

PARIS: France has charged four people with selling high-tech industrial secrets to China and Russia, a judiciary source said Thursday.

The four, two French and two Chinese nationals who were charged on March 24, include two top managers at high-tech firm Ommic, the source said.

Ommic is a semiconductor company based near Paris, employing just over 100 people.

US chip maker Macom Technology agreed earlier this year to acquire Ommic and said it would make the French site its European semiconductor centre.

The Le Parisien newspaper said that Ommic had progressively come under the control of Ruoadan Z., a 63-year-old Chinese national, who became the company's president in 2018 after buying 94 per cent of its capital via an investment fund created in France.

Its managing director, Marc R., and a Chinese manager at the company are suspected of delivering to a foreign power information on systems, documents or files contrary to France's national interest, the source said. If convicted, they face a maximum sentence of 15 years in jail.

Le Parisien said that Marc R. is accused of knowingly circumventing rules to deliver powerful chips and information on sensitive technology to China and Russia.

This included Gallium Nitride know-how used to boost semi-conductor capabilities.

In a complex dispatch system, the sensitive technology was also delivered via China to Russia, despite a Western embargo in place since its invasion of the Crimea, the paper said.

Marc R. was arrested but then released and placed under judicial supervision, it said, as were the three others.

The group first came under suspicion during a border police check in early 2021 which sparked a preliminary probe. Investigators seized a number of incriminating assets, the judicial source said.

The four charged are also suspected of organised smuggling, fraud and abuse of company assets, the source said.

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