Huawei denies involvement in engineer's death

A weird story is breaking involving the death of a US engineer and some top technology companies.

The Financial Times ran a yarn on Saturday saying that Shane Todd had been working on “what was apparently a joint project” between Singapore’s Institute of Microelectronics, or IME, and Huawei.

He was found hanging in his Singapore flat soon after leaving the “project” and his parents claim he was bumped off because of his involvement, which involved exporting sensitive military technology to China.

Singapore police are still investigating the death of Todd, while Singaporean pathologists concluded in an autopsy that he died by hanging in his flat.

Huawei has been swift to deny involvement with the mysterious project, saying that the IME approached Huawei on one occasion to cooperate with it in the Gallium Nitride field, but the company decided not to accept.

It has not had anything to do with the IME since, Huawei told Reuters.

Todd’s area of expertise was Gallium Nitride, which is an advanced semiconductor material which has both commercial and military purposes.

Huawei said that the development of Gallium Nitride technology was common across the telecommunications industry.

Reuters said that interviews with the family, colleagues and friends revealed conflicting views on Todd’s state of mind before his death, the nature of his work and how he died.

Those he worked with said he was increasingly depressed, but said that his concerns appeared to centre on a sense of failure about his work, and the fact he did not want to go back to the United States.

Others have pointed out that if his work was so sensitive, it was odd that he could take home computer files from his office. His family found a hard drive which included work files in his flat.

Then there is the nature of the IME. This is part of a network of research institutes managed by government-run Agency for Science, Technology and Research, or A*Star.

IME and other A*Star institutes are not normally seen as military research organisations.

The family thinks that Todd was concerned for his safety because of a project with a Chinese company. They believed, through information from his colleagues and from his computer files, that the company was Huawei.

Todd’s mother, Mary, said in a telephone interview with Reuters last July that he had been scared. She claimed he quit his job out of fear of being murdered because of his contacts with the Chinese government.

IME colleagues said shortly after Todd’s death that he had told them at one point he had been working on a project with Huawei but that it was not sensitive or high-level in nature. One described it as carrying out “measurement test reports” of semiconductors, which is not something you usually get bumped off for.