Canadian authorities arrested an employee of public utility firm Hydro-Quebec on Monday and charged him with espionage for allegedly trying to steal trade secrets and sending them to China.
Yuesheng Wang, 35, was an employee and researcher for the firm whose work related to battery materials, said the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
Wang was taken into custody at his home in Candiac, a suburb of Montreal, and due to appear in court on Tuesday.
He is accused of obtaining trade secrets, using a computer without authorization, deception to gain trade secrets, and breach of trust by public officer.
The public utility company Hydro-Quebec oversees the production, transmission, and distribution of electricity within the Canadian province as well as its export to parts of the northeastern United States.
How was the crime committed?
According to the RCMP, its national security enforcement team started investigating Wang after a complaint from Hydro-Quebec.
Wang worked in a facility that developed technologies for energy storage and electric automobiles. He had been recently fired citing "serious breaches of the company's code of ethics."
The researcher is accused of allegedly using his position to carry out research for a Chinese university and other Chinese research institutions while working for Hydro-Quebec, according to RCMP Inspector David Beaudoin.
"He obtained this information to benefit the Peoples Republic of China to the detriment of Canada's economic interest," Beaudoin said.
Wang allegedly submitted patent applications and published scientific publications in "association with this foreign actor rather than with Hydro Quebec," according to the RCMP inspector, using Hydro-Quebec data without permission or knowledge.
Referring to the espionage charge under the Security of Information Act, Beaudoin said it was "the first time this charge has been laid in Canada."
According to the police, Wang committed the crimes between February 2018 and October 2022.
The race for EV dominance
China is now the world's largest supplier of materials for batteries used in electric vehicles, while Canada is attempting to increase local manufacturing of EV batteries and battery components.
"The fact that this alleged espionage was with respect to the battery ecosystem just reminds me how careful we'll need to be," Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said.
Invoking national security, Canada recently demanded that three Chinese corporations sell their holdings in crucial Canadian resources.
Since the detention of Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou in 2018 and Beijing's subsequent arrest of two Canadians on spying charges, diplomatic relations between Canada and China have been frayed. The tensions have since eased following the release of all three people last year.
ss/wd (AP, AFP, Reuters)