France suspects advanced chip technology is being smuggled to China and Russia

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solo29 July 2023Last Update : 2 months ago
France suspects advanced chip technology is being smuggled to China and Russia

The company’s French manager is suspected of personally delivering the chips to Russian customers and exporting them to Chinese arms manufacturers.

French magistrates have filed preliminary charges against two Chinese nationals and two Frenchmen in an investigation into a major chip supplier whose advanced technology with potential military uses was allegedly smuggled into China and Russia to evade sanctions and export controls .

The investigation into semiconductor maker Omik, based in the Paris region and now in US hands, was launched by France’s National Prosecution Service, which specializes in arms-proliferation cases.

Ongoing investigation since March

The investigation is now being conducted by magistrates probing suspected illegal exports, counterfeiting and other suspected crimes, according to a French judicial official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of confidentiality laws covering the magistrate’s investigation .

The official said that since March four people – two French, two Chinese – have been placed under formal investigation. This means magistrates believe there is enough evidence of possible crimes but want more time to investigate.

The judicial official said two of the four men face a preliminary allegation of handing over protected technology to a foreign power. The officer and the Prosecution Service, who also specialize in terrorism cases, declined to go into further detail about the investigation.

Transfer of French Technology

The newspaper Le Parisien was the first to report on the matter. It added that investigators had uncovered a suspicious export of technology worth approximately €12 million.

It added that the company’s French manager is suspected of personally delivering chips to Russian customers. It added that the products were also exported to Chinese arms manufacturers with the help of forged paperwork.

The paper said a Beijing-based Chinese businessman with links to China’s defense industry bought a majority stake and took control of Omik in 2018.

The paper said France’s counter-espionage agency suspected the Chinese investor was looking to transfer French technology to China, particularly a semiconductor manufacturing process that Omic specializes in.

Macom Technology Solutions Holdings Inc., a semiconductor supplier based in Lowell, Massachusetts, announced in February that it is acquiring Omick for €38.5 million. Le Parisien reported that French judicial authorities stripped Omik’s Chinese investor of its stake and temporarily placed the company under state control ahead of its sale.

MACOM said Omic’s portfolio of chips and its design know-how will strengthen its position in the telecommunications, industrial, aerospace and defense markets.

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