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Investigations have been launched in the Netherlands, as well as in the US, into a Chinese ex-employee of ASML. The former employee is alleged to have been guilty of stealing intellectual property from the chip manufacturing giant. It is being investigated whether this person has ties to the Chinese government.

According to Bloomberg sources, the Chinese ex-employee, who was himself working in China, may have ties to a Chinese government-sponsored company or institution. He would have misappropriated the data, presumably on ASML’s modern EUV technology, on assignment.

Meanwhile, both Dutch and U.S. authorities are investigating the case. ASML is also investigating the case itself, but this investigation has not yet established a direct link between the Chinese government and the theft of intellectual property, sources said.

Report in annual report

In its 2022 annual report, the Dutch chip machine manufacturer indicated that in the past year a Chinese ex-employee was guilty of stealing intellectual property. This theft was recently discovered and more specifically involved data on the company’s most advanced technology, EUV technology.

Violation of export rules

The theft of the data did not impact ASML’s financial performance, but it did affect the export ban on this technology to China. The company therefore notified the Dutch government after discovering the data theft that it may have violated export regulations.

The announcement of the theft came at a sensitive time. The US wants the Netherlands to impose export restrictions on ASML’s EUV technology and machines. This is because the US fears the technology could be used to manufacture chips that then end up in Chinese military applications.

The US has recently stepped up pressure on the Netherlands to also restrict the export of chip machines with older technology. The Netherlands does not want to do this lightly, but a deal appears to be in the offing.

The Chinese embassies in the U.S. and the Netherlands have not commented on the possible involvement of the Chinese government in the ex-employee’s spying activities.

Also read: Chinese ex-employee steals sensitive company information from ASML