Wednesday, 11 March, 2009

British pair charged in 'industrial espionage' row

March 9, 2009
David Brown
A leading British manufacturer has been caught up in an industrial espionage row after two engineers used a mobile telephone to photograph a secret piece of equipment at an American factory.

The photographs are alleged to have been used by Wyko Tire Technology in Dudley, West Midlands, to manufacturer a specialist tyre machine for a Chinese company.

Engineers Clark Roberts and Sean Howley are alleged to have tricked their way into the Goodyear factory in Kansas to take seven photographs of machinery used make large “off the road” tyres for earth moving equipment, it is claimed.

The pictures were emailed to two Wyko employees at the factory in Britain and were used to manufacturer a similar piece of equipment for the Haohau South China Guilin Rubber Company based in north east China. The contract with the Chinese company was worth $1.2million.

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Mr Roberts, 46, and Mr Howley, 38 - both employees of Wyko Tire Technology Inc in Greenback, Tennessee - have been charged with 12 offences relating to the theft of trade secrets and wire fraud. They face a maximum sentence of 150 years in prison and a fine of $2.75million (£2million).

The US Department of Justice claims the two engineers tricked their way into the Goodyear factory in Topeka in May 2007. Mr Howley is alleged to have taken the pictures while his colleague acted as “look out for Goodyear employees”.

The US Department of Justice said that both men have denied the charges and are due to stand trial in May in Knoxville, Tennessee, following the investigation by the FBI.

Wyko Tires is part of Wyko Group, one of Britain’s largest suppliers of engineering components. Wyko was bought by Eriks for £139milion in November 2006 and is being rebranded under the Dutch company’s name. Eriks was unavailable for comment.


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