A Hydro-Québec employee accused of sending trade secrets to China has been charged with espionage.
The employee, Yuesheng Wang, 35, was arrested on Monday morning at his home in Candiac, Que., following an RCMP investigation.
Wang appeared in court on Tuesday via videoconference, from the RCMP detention centre in Montreal, using a Mandarin interpreter. His next appearance is Friday.
He is accused of fraud for obtaining trade secrets, unauthorized use of a computer, breach of trust by a public officer and obtaining trade secrets, a charge under the Security of Information Act (SIA). The crimes were allegedly committed between February 2018 and October 2022.
"This investigation is very significant and sends a clear message," said Insp. David Beaudoin, who leads the RCMP's Integrated National Security Enforcement team, which conducted the investigation into Wang. "We do believe the investigation shows that the actions undertaken by Mr. Wang are criminal in nature."
The RCMP says Wang published academic papers and filed patents in connection with Chinese universities without the permission of Hydro-Québec.
The SIA, formerly known as the Official Secrets Act, is an act of Parliament that addresses national security concerns.
This is the first time that the obtaining trade secrets charge has been laid under the SIA, Beaudoin said. The charge carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence.
The investigation began in August 2022 after Hydro-Québec's corporate security branch filed a complaint about Wang, Beaudoin said.
When corporate security grew suspicious, Beaudoin said they took "preventative measures" against Wang, who has since been fired from his job as a researcher at Hydro-Québec's Center of Excellence in Transportation Electrification and Energy Storage (CETEES).
CETEES develops technology for electric vehicles and energy storage systems, according to Hydro-Québec.
"Our detection and intervention mechanisms allowed our investigators to bring this matter to the attention of the RCMP,
with whom we have worked closely ever since," Dominic Roy, senior director responsible for corporate security at Hydro-Québec, said in a statement.
"No organization is safe from a situation like this one, which is why we must always remain vigilant and transparent, and we must not tolerate violations of the company's code of ethics."
WATCH | Why the RCMP arrested Yuesheng Wang:
Wang's research focused on batteries.
His byline appears on published academic papers as recently as April 2022, working with other Hydro-Québec researchers, but also, for some papers, alongside researchers affiliated with Chinese universities.
Wang has worked at Hydro-Québec since October 2016, according to information on LinkedIn, a social media platform. Before that, he was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Arkansas and a visiting researcher at Queen Mary University of London. He has a master's degree in materials engineering from the Chinese Academy of Sciences' institute of physics.
Hydro-Québec is Quebec's government-owned energy provider.