TAIPEI, Taiwan—Local prosecutors and law enforcement officials on March 9 raided seven locations and questioned 19 individuals in an investigation over China’s poaching of Taiwanese semiconductor experts.
The two companies were set up through a joint venture between an unnamed China-based semiconductor design company and a group of Taiwanese semiconductor design experts. The Chinese company had Taiwanese experts hold senior executive positions at the two companies and asked them to recruit their former co-workers.
In the last three years, hundreds of Taiwanese semiconductor professionals were successfully recruited into working at the two Chinese-funded companies, according to the prosecutors. These professionals were paid an annual salary twice or higher than their original pay.
However, the recruitment effort “seriously undermined” the development of Taiwan’s semiconductor industry, the prosecutors said.
The prosecutors added that it was important to secure Taiwan’s trade secrets in the face of China’s aggressive effort to poach Taiwan’s semiconductor experts.
The raids resulted in the seizure of multiple pieces of evidence, including employment contracts, employee non-disclosure agreements, cellphones, laptops, and bank passbooks, according to the press release.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs has also banned China-based entities from establishing semiconductor companies or subsidiaries in Taiwan, according to the press release.
According to Taiwanese media, the unnamed China-based semiconductor was Beijing-based Bitmain Technologies. Additionally, the two companies in Taiwan were set up by Bitmain and its subsidiary CVITEK, which is also based in China’s capital Beijing, without the approval of Taiwan’s authorities.
Taiwanese daily newspaper Liberty Times reported many of the hundreds of Taiwanese semiconductor professionals recruited originated from some of the best-known semiconductor companies on the island, including chip designer MediaTek and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the world’s largest contract chipmaker.
By Wednesday afternoon, the four Taiwanese senior executives have been released after posting bail, according to local media.