China Tried to Steal Secret of Titanium Dioxide: Feds California-based couple targeted DuPont pigment: officials By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff Posted Mar 9, 2012 8:36 AM CST 16 comments Comments A DuPont sign is shown at the company's world headquarters April 12, 2004 in Wilmington, Delaware. (Getty Images) (Newser) – Spies aren't just after government secrets these days: An indictment unsealed last month spotlights US efforts to crack down on corporate spying. The government has filed criminal espionage charges against a China-owned firm, saying Pangang Group was after DuPont chemical secrets—specifically, its efficient method for producing the white pigment titanium dioxide, the Wall Street Journal reports. It's the first time such charges have been lodged against a state-owned foreign firm, the Justice Department says, as federal agents crack down on foreign governments' attempts to pilfer US intellectual property. A couple living in California has been charged with trying to steal and sell secrets about the 50-year-old DuPont technology to Pangang, and the Journal relates how the Liews were busted: After DuPont filed a civil suit against them last year, the FBI got a search warrant for their home. While there, it found a safe deposit box key—and an agent who speaks Mandarin overheard Walter Liew tell his wife in Chinese to say that she didn't know about the bank ... which is where she drove right after the agents left. Prosecutors say the couple's box housed documents related to the plot. China says accusations that the state-owned company asked businessmen to obtain DuPont trade secrets are "groundless." But "what we've learned since the end of the Cold War is that when it comes to the economy, our adversaries and even our allies will spy on us when it's in their economic interest," says an FBI director.