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Former employee charged with $1B trade secret theft from US petroleum firm

A Chinese national working for a U.S. petroleum company was arrested Dec. 20 on charges of theft of trade secrets, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said Hongjin Tan is alleged to have stolen information worth more than $1 billion from his employer and sought to use the stolen intellectual property for the benefit of a Chinese company that offered Tan a position. The DOJ did not disclose the U.S. employer, describing it as a U.S. petroleum company with operations in Oklahoma.

The information included files relating to the manufacture of a "research and development downstream energy market product," the DOJ said.

A preliminary hearing was set for Dec. 26. The suspect is a 12-year resident of the U.S., the DOJ said.

"As our recent cases show, all too often these thefts involve the Chinese government or Chinese companies," Demers said in a news release. "The department recently launched an initiative to protect our economy from such illegal practices emanating from China, and we continue to make this a top priority."