Not China, but Samsung behind espionage at ASML, CEO suggests

ASML headquarters in Veldhoven
ASML headquarters in VeldhovenPhoto: A ansems/Wikimedia Commons

It wasn't the Chinese government, but South Korean tech company Samsung that was behind corporate espionage at Dutch chip machine maker ASML, CEO of the Dutch company Peter Wennink suggested in an interview with broadcaster NOS.

After it became clear that someone was stealing trade secrets from ASML in the United states, ASML hired a company to find out who was behind it. The stolen software ended up with ASML's competitor Xtal, which was financed by both China and Korea. No evidence was found that the Chinese government was involved, Wennink said.

"There is no hundred percent certainty. We have not found any evidence of any connection with the Chinese government. What we have found evidence for is that the products were stolen by people of American and Chinese nationality, with a Chinese background, and that those products were used to provide services to our largest Korean customer", Wennink said.

According to NOS, he is very likely referring to Samsung. The company "enthused" the spies to steal software from ASML and start their own business, thereby creating a competitor for ASML. The stolen software is needed to set up chip machines for optimum production of electronic chips. In 2016, Samsung became a 30 percent shareholder in Xtal, and ASML subsequently lost Samsung as a customer for this software. 

Samsung Nederland was not available to comment to NOS on Tuesday night. 

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