Arrest warrant issued for ex-Samsung Elec official over chip tech leak

SEOUL (Reuters) -An arrest warrant has been issued for a former Samsung Electronics official accused of giving semiconductor technology information to a Chinese chipmaker, as Seoul cracks down effort on industrial espionage.

A judge issued the warrant on Friday, the Seoul Central District Court said in a statement on Saturday morning. Prosecutors had sought the warrant on Wednesday on suspicion the unidentified official gave information related to 18-nano DRAM memory chip technology to China’s Changxin Memory Technologies (CXMT).

Prosecutors said the damage caused by the technology leak could be about 2.3 trillion won ($1.8 billion), the Korea Economic Daily newspaper reported, adding that the case also involves dozens of others from Samsung Electronics’ suppliers.

Samsung, the world’s top memory chipmaker, said it had no comment.

Hefei-based CXMT declined to comment on the matter specifically but said in a statement it respects intellectual property rights and has a robust mechanism to prevent the inflow of third-party information from its employees.

Owned by state-backed parent Innotron Memory, CXMT is China’s leading maker of DRAM memory chips.

The man left Samsung for CXMT in 2016, local media have reported. Prosecutors and the court declined to comment on whether he still works for CXMT.

Prosecutors declined to comment on the reported extent of the damage from the leak.

In South Korea’s crackdown on industrial espionage, another former Samsung official is on trial accused of stealing company information to help a client set up a chip factory in China. The defendant, Choi Jinseog, denies the charges and is out on bail.

($1 = 1,296.3900 won)

(Reporting by Heekyong Yang in Seoul and Yelin Mo in Beijing; Editing by Jason Neely and William Mallard)