South Korean technology leak suspect dies amid probe

South Korean technology leak suspect dies amid probe

A former employee of a General Motors Corp. unit killed himself amid a South Korean investigation into alleged technology leaks to a Russian automaker and prosecutors have arrested two other workers as part of the probe, officials said Thursday.

An official at Seoul Southern District Prosecutors’ Office said two former GM Daewoo Auto & Technology Co. employees were arrested last week on charges of leaking key information on the firm’s popular “Lacetti” sedan before moving to a Korean branch of Russian automaker TagAZ.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity citing department policy, didn’t provide details. Yonhap news agency reported the leaks helped TagAZ develop its “C100” model sedan.

The official also said a South Korean executive of TagAZ Korea who was also under investigation in the case recently killed himself.

TagAZ Korea said the man was found hanging in the basement of the firm’s Seoul building Friday, one day after he underwent a prosecution probe over the case. TagAZ Korea official Chung Chan-keun said the man had worked for GM Daewoo before joining the Russian company, but didn’t specify what charges he was facing.

The arrested South Koreans allegedly violated South Korea’s laws that protect business secrets and guard against unfair corporate competition, the prosecution official said. If convicted, the two could face up to 10 years in prison, according to the Supreme Court.

Yonhap, citing an unidentified prosecution official, said the two allegedly took out thousands of computer files containing GM Daewoo’s automobile technologies before quitting the firm and joining TagAZ Korea in 2006 and 2008, respectively.

GM Daewoo said it was considering legal action against TagAZ Korea but would first wait for the outcome of the investigation.

TagAZ Korea official Chung confirmed the arrests but said his company would not comment because a prosecution investigation was under way.

Chung said TagAZ unveiled its “C100” sedan earlier this year in Russia but didn’t know whether the firm already started selling the cars there.