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Ex-Apple Engineer Indicted For Passing Tech To China & Russia

China-bound ex-Apple engineer admits to trade secrets theft/ iPhone. A former  Apple  engineer has been charged with trying to steal the com...

China-bound ex-Apple engineer admits to trade secrets theft/ iPhone.
A former Apple engineer has been charged with trying to steal the company’s self-driving-car technology, U.S. authorities said Tuesday, one of a series of actions aimed at dismantling what they say are illicit networks providing Russia and China with access to trade secrets and restricted items such as aircraft parts and battlefield equipment.

Weibao Wang, 35 years old, a software engineer at Apple from 2016 to 2018, was charged with six counts of theft or attempted theft of the company’s “entire autonomy source code,” tracking systems, architecture designs and descriptions of hardware behind the technology, the Justice Department said in an indictment.

About a year into his employment at Apple, Mr. Wang began working for a U.S.-based subsidiary of a Chinese company that was also developing autonomous-driving technology and began taking “large amounts” of sensitive information related to Apple’s project, the indictment says. Investigators who searched his Mountain View, Calif., home found Apple’s proprietary and confidential materials on Mr. Wang’s computers and other devices.

Court records don’t list an attorney for Mr. Wang, who prosecutors said flew from San Francisco to China hours after the June 2018 search and remains there. An Apple spokesman declined to comment. The charges against Mr. Wang were announced as part of a series of arrests and indictments secured by federal prosecutors in California, Arizona and New York. 

Officials said the actions stemmed from a task force convened in February between the Justice Department and the Commerce Department, which is focused on policing regulations restricting the export of sensitive technologies to foreign adversaries such as China and Russia. “Foreign nation-states are working hard to acquire our most sensitive technologies,” said Matthew Axelrod, assistant secretary for export enforcement at the Commerce Department. “We’re working even harder to stop them.”

In another action announced Tuesday, the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn said French authorities had arrested Nikolaos “Nikos” Bogonikolos, a Greek national who operated companies in Greece and the Netherlands and allegedly helped supply Russia with battlefield equipment and advanced electronics used for quantum cryptography and nuclear-weapons testing. The U.S. will seek his extradition, he said.

The U.S. attorney in Arizona also announced the arrests of Oleg Patsulya and Vasilii Besedin, two Russian citizens who lived near Miami and who authorities said were involved in a scheme to circumvent U.S. export controls by supplying aircraft parts to Russian airlines. Lawyers for Messrs. Patsulya and Besedin didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Court records don’t list a lawyer for Mr. Bogonikolos.

In a complaint filed Friday, prosecutors said Messrs. Patsulya and Besedin supplied a Boeing 737 carbon disc-brake system and other parts to at least three different Russian airlines. Two of the airlines fell under export restrictions announced by the Commerce Department last year, they said. FBI agents last week conducted a raid of a condominium in the Trump Towers in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., which was owned by a company controlled by the two men.

The U.S. has said it is stepping up enforcement of the sanctions and exports controls on Russia. In March, the Justice Department said it would hire dozens of new prosecutors to staff its section dedicated to investigating sanctions and export-controls violations. 

“This threat is as significant as ever. So we are trying to marshal our resources and prioritize these cases,” said Matthew Olsen, head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. The U.S. export-controls regulations are administered by the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security, which has also taken steps to bulk up its enforcement capabilities, issuing new policies that encourage companies to report potential violations.

The two departments last month levied a $300 million fine against two subsidiaries of Seagate Technology Holdings, saying the Dublin-based data-storage equipment provider had continued to sell hard drives to China’s Huawei Technologies despite tightened export controls imposed on the company in 2020.