“Attempted industrial theft” is the charge against a Chinese computer engineer working for Google in the United States. He has just been arrested and charged, US Justice Minister Merrick Garland announced on Wednesday. Linwei Ding, aka Leon Ding, 38, was arrested Wednesday in Newark, California (west), the Department of Justice said in a statement. “We have made public charges against a Chinese national for stealing trade secrets related to artificial intelligence from Google,” Merrick Garland said at a meeting of the American Bar Association (ABA) in San Francisco. These acts were committed “while he was working for two companies based in the People’s Republic of China” without Google’s knowledge, the minister stressed. “The Department of Justice will not tolerate the theft of our trade secrets in the field of artificial intelligence,” he added.

According to the indictment issued Tuesday, Linwei Ding, hired by the American company in 2019, is being prosecuted for having clandestinely downloaded from May 2022 to May 2023 more than 500 files relating to Google’s research in the field of artificial intelligence. “We have strict rules to prevent the theft of our confidential business information and trade secrets. After investigation, we discovered that this employee had stolen numerous documents, and we quickly reported this matter to the legal authorities,” explained a Google spokesperson, José Castaneda.

In June 2022, Linwei Ding was approached by a Chinese start-up who offered him a position as head of technology. He subsequently founded his own start-up in China in May 2023, according to the indictment. “These indictments are the latest example of the lengths to which subordinates of companies based in the People’s Republic of China are willing to go to steal American inventions,” said the director of the American Federal Police (FBI), Christopher Wray, cited in the press release.

“The theft of innovative technologies and industrial secrets from American companies can cost jobs and have devastating consequences on the economy and national security” of the United States, he continued. The computer engineer is targeted by four counts of theft of industrial secrets, each punishable by a maximum sentence of ten years in prison and a fine of $250,000, indicates the Ministry of Justice.