A Chinese national accused of stealing trade secrets from Ford Motor Co was employed by Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Corp (BAIC), China's fifth-biggest automaker, but was in the United States on personal leave when he was arrested, BAIC said Monday.
BAIC issued a statement saying the employee, named by U.S. prosecutors as Xiangdong Yu, had worked in BAIC's research division for 11 months before leaving on a personal trip to the United States in mid-October.
The state-run company, which has agreed a deal with supercar manufacturer Koenigsegg to help fund its purchase of General Motors' Swedish unit Saab, said it would continue to monitor the development of the incident.
BAIC and other Chinese automakers have been seeking opportunities to buy brands and technology from struggling Western automakers amid the current industry turmoil. In addition to its investment in Saab, BAIC made a failed bid for GM's European brand Opel and has been linked with the sale of Ford's Swedish unit, Volvo.
U.S. authorities Wednesday arrested Yu, a product engineer at Ford from 1997 to early 2007, on charges he attempted to steal Ford trade secrets, stole some documents and used them to try to get work with Chinese automotive companies.
In late 2006, Yu succeeded in his attempt to find a new job with Foxconn and PCE Industry Inc, according to the indictment.
A year later, he tried to use information he took from the U.S. automaker to get a job with SAIC Motor Corp, a China partner of GM, but failed, the indictment said.
He later accepted a position at BAIC, which makes cars in tie-ups with Daimler AG and Hyundai Motor Co but does not have a brand of its own.
Yu is accused of copying designs including Ford's engine and transmission mounting subsystem, front and rear side door structure, steering wheel assembly and the instrument panel and console subsystem, among others, according to the indictment.
(Reporting by Fang Yan and Jacqueline Wong; Editing by Lincoln Feast)