Ex-Chemours employee accused by U.S. of trade secrets theft scheme

By Nate Raymond

(Reuters) - A former Chemours Co employee has been indicted on U.S. charges that he conspired to steal trade secrets related to its lucrative sodium cyanide business and sell them to Chinese investors, U.S. prosecutors said on Thursday.

Jerry Jindong Xu, who moved from China in 2011 and was employed by DuPont before the U.S. conglomerate spinned off Chemours in 2015, was charged in an indictment filed in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware.

Xu, 48, was arrested in New York state in August in connection with the case, though the indictment was only unsealed this week. He is being held without bail, according to court documents.

Xu has pleaded not guilty to the charges. His lawyer and Wilmington-based Chemours did not respond to requests for comment.

U.S. concern about intellectual property theft by China has been heightened, with President Donald Trump in August authorizing an inquiry into the matter.

"We are committed to prosecuting anyone - be they rogue actors or foreign nations - who tries to line their pockets by jeopardizing the hard work our businesses perform every day," Acting U.S. Attorney David Weiss in Delaware said in a statement.

According to the indictment, Chemours is the world's largest producer of sodium cyanide, a chemical used to mine gold, silver and other precious metals. Chemours earlier this year broke ground on a $150 million sodium cyanide plant in Mexico.

Prosecutors said Xu had worked for DuPont since 2004 and was involved in marketing sodium cyanide-based products. He was terminated by Chemours in 2016, prosecutors said.

The indictment accused Xu of using his position with Chemours to obtain trade secrets and confidential information including reports and spreadsheets regarding three different company projects related to cyanide plants and facilities.

Prosecutors said his main goal was to either help investors build a competing sodium cyanide plant or become an import competitor.

He told one potential investor that he wanted to do the project "for himself and not to slave away at this only to benefit someone else," prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said he conducted the scheme with the help of an unidentified longtime former DuPont employee who had left in 2014. They said that during the scheme, he accessed Chemours documents and secretly took pictures of plant system diagrams.

The case is U.S. v. Xu, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware, No. 17-cr-00063.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Richard Chang)