S'pore gallium nitride research linked to US engineer's death

S'pore gallium nitride research linked to US engineer's death

Summary: American Shane Todd's death in June 2012 has been linked to his work on gallium nitride for Singapore's Institute of Microelectronics and an unidentified Chinese company suspected to be Huawei. Police investigations are ongoing.

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SINGAPORE--Local police say they are still looking into the death of American engineer Shane Todd here last June, but a U.S. news report suggests his death could be linked to research work on gallium nitride (GaN) conducted for his then-employer, Institute of Microelectronics, and an unidentified Chinese partner company.

A report Friday by Financial Times (FT) said Todd had headed a research team at IME which focused on the development of gallium nitride, a substance which can be used in both commercial and military applications ranging from light-emitting displays and cellular phone base stations to radar and satellite communications. 

IME building 2
Shane Todd was just finishing up his 18-month stint at IME and planning to return to the U.S. when his death was reported. (Credit: Institute of Microelectronics)

IME is a research institute under lcoal statutory board, Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star). It was founded in 1991 to help enhance the value-add of Singapore's microelectronics industry by undertaking core research and development (R&D) in microelectronics, supporting the industry's R&D needs, and developing skilled research personnel, according to IME's Web site.  

However, from early-2012, Todd reportedly told his family based in the United States he was worried his research work on a project at IME, which involved a Chinese company, was compromising U.S. national securityTodd's family later found an external hard drive in his Singapore apartment after his death, and it contained work files including one labeled "Huawei" which the FT report said appeared to be a plan for a joint project between IME and Huawei Technologies for the development of GaN.

Huawei's head of international media, Scott Sykes, told the news agency in December 2012 the company was "not aware of any of this" regarding Todd and the company's supposed partnership with IME. He later said: "We have not had any cooperation with IME with respect to GaN so there is nothing more to add."

"No prior assumptions" in investigations

In a separate FT report Sunday, the Singapore police issued a statement saying they investigated "all unnatural death cases thoroughly, working closely with the pathologist and other relevant experts, and no prior assumptions are made on the cause of death".

The statement came after the initial FT report cited the Todd family's concerns over how the Singapore police was handling the investigations.

The Singapore police also said since Shane Todd's death, it had "engaged and assisted the [Todd] family without impeding the objectivity of our investigation process". It added: "We will continue to do so. Police have also kept the American Embassy and FBI informed of this case."

Topics: Security, Government, Legal, Singapore

Kevin Kwang

About Kevin Kwang

A Singapore-based freelance IT writer, Kevin made the move from custom publishing focusing on travel and lifestyle to the ever-changing, jargon-filled world of IT and biz tech reporting, and considered this somewhat a leap of faith. Since then, he has covered a myriad of beats including security, mobile communications, and cloud computing.

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4 comments
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  • Incomplete story

    So how did he die? Was it physical violence? Or was it from some illness that we're being lead to believe had to do with this materials he was working with? I shouldn't have to go search the Internet or open every link in an article for key pieces of the story. ZDNet, don't sink to the level of other Tech sites!
    beau parisi
  • This was his mistake:

    "However, from early-2012, Todd reportedly told his family based in the United States he was worried his research work on a project at IME, which involved a Chinese company, was compromising U.S. national security."

    When something like that comes up, you contact the proper authorities immediately. If he had done so, he might still be around. If I was him, as soon as I had any suspicions, I'd have hopped the first plane back to the USA for a "family emergency" and reported my suspicions to the FBI right away.
    sg1efc
  • S'pore gallium nitride research linked to US engineer's death

    no one kills the goose that lays the golden egg ... besides it is still under investigation, so conspiracy theorists will have a field day ahead.
    kc63092@...
  • Pretty Pathetic Conspiracy

    Get some new scriptwriters.
    ldo17