A federal grand jury has charged a former Chemours employee with stealing trade secrets related to sodium cyanide and trying to sell them to Chinese investors.
The indictment charges that marketing professional Jerry Jindong Xu, who worked for Chemours and its former parent DuPont between 2004 and 2016, intended to use the stolen information to convince Chinese investors to export sodium cyanide and later build a competing plant in North America.
Sodium cyanide is widely used to extract gold from ore. Demand for the potentially deadly chemical has been on the rise as consumption of the precious metal increases.
Earlier this year, Evonik Industries and Grupo Idesa opened a 40,000-metric-ton-per-year sodium cyanide facility in Mexico. Chemours announced plans for a $150 million plant in the Mexican state of Durango.
The indictment charges Xu with conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets. If convicted, he faces 10 years in jail and a $250,000 fine. “We are committed to prosecuting anyone—be they rogue actors or foreign nations—who tries to line their pockets” by stealing trade information, says David Weiss, acting U.S. attorney for the District of Delaware. Xu’s lawyer tells C&EN he has no comment.
According to the indictment, Xu told one Chinese correspondent that he launched the sodium cyanide project as “a long-term investment for himself and not to slave away at this only to benefit someone else.”In the ol' Money Ideology Compromise Ego explanation for espionage, I've noted how often money is a primary explanation (although surely ego plays into it.)