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Dutch chip maker denies China played role in IP theft

Dutch chip maker ASML has denied it fell victim to a “national conspiracy” after it emerged that Chinese employees had stolen hundreds of millions of euros of intellectual property from the company.

The business newspaper Financieele Dagblad reported on Thursday that the staff had passed on commercially sensitive information to a subsidiary of a Chinese firm with alleged links to China’s Ministry of Science and Technology.

But in a statement published by Reuters later on Thursday, ASML’s chief executive Peter Wennick said “the suggestion that we were somehow victim of a national conspiracy is wrong”.

He added: “We resent any suggestion that this event should have any implication for ASML conducting business in China. Some of the individuals (involved) happened to be Chinese nationals.”

The company exported two billion dollars (£1.5bn) of semiconductors to China last year.

The reports have intensified calls for the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei to be locked out of the Netherlands’ 5G network. There is no link between Huawei and the corporate espionage campaign, but Dutch politicians told Financieele Dagblad they were worried about the company’s alleged links to the Chinese government. Huawei has repeatedly stressed it operates independently of Beijing.