Given the international brouhaha surrounding the ongoing Huawei CFO extradition hearings in Canada to face fraud charges in the US, reports from Reuters that Apple has "deep concerns" that two Chinese-born former employees accused of stealing trade secrets from the company will try to flee before their trials if their locations are not monitored - could well throw yet another cog in the gears of any imminent US-China trade deal.
As detailed earlier in the year, the two former Apple employees worked in the company's secretive self-driving car program. As CNBC reported earlier in the year, Apple’s review found about 100 photos taken inside Apple’s building that housed the project on his personal devices along with “over two thousand files containing confidential and proprietary Apple material, including manuals, schematics and diagrams,” according to the affidavit.
Chen allegedly told Apple he backed up the work to his personal devices “as an ‘insurance policy’ to support his job applications after being placed on a PIP,” referring to the Performance Improvement Plan the agent claims Apple placed Chen on in December 2018. Apple allegedly found confidential and proprietary information on Chen’s devices collected prior to his placement on the improvement plan.
And now, after eleven months, Reuters reports that, during a hearing in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, prosecutors argued that Xiaolang Zhang and Jizhong Chen should continue to be monitored because they present flight risks... which seems reasonable since both men were arrested on criminal trade secrets theft charges while heading to airports to fly back to China and have been monitored after being released on bail.
Their defense attorney reportedly said Monday that both men had family reasons to visit China and had shown no signs of violating their pre-trial conditions so far.
But, once again echoing the Huawei executive case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Marissa Harris argued that if either man fled to China, it would be difficult if not impossible for federal officials to secure their extradition for a trial.
“Apple’s intellectual property is at the core of our innovation and growth,” the statement said.
“The defendants’ continued participation in these proceedings is necessary to ensure a final determination of the facts, and we have deep concerns the defendants will not see this through if given the opportunity.”
Given Tim Cook's recent cozy relationship with President Trump, we can't help but wonder if a quiet call will be made to ensure this IP (allegedly stolen by these two Chinese-nationals) is not allowed to leave the country?
Additionally, the irony is not lost on us at the potential for Chinese officials to be angered by US attempts to surveil the every move of these two Chinese-born citizens.