Hired in December 2015 to work on Apple's project to develop hardware and software for self-driving or autonomous vehicles, Zhang took paternity leave during April and travelled with his family to China, according to the complaint. About 5,000 employees were authorized to access information about the program, including about 2,700 "core" employees with access to secret databases.
During his resignation, he turned over two iPhones, a MacBook and complied to Apple's intellectual property policy, according to the complaint.
"There is no indication that he has ever communicated any sensitive information from Apple to XMotors", Jiang said of Zhang.
Apple's security division then began investigating Zhang's activities and noticed he had been downloading a large number of files from the company's confidential databases. According to a court filing, Zhang worked on the company's self-driving auto initiative, dubbed "Project Titan", as a member of the Compute Team. He resigned earlier this year to move back to China and work for a start-up named Xiaopeng Motors.
"Apple takes confidentiality and the protection of our intellectual property very seriously", company spokesman Tom Neumayr said in an email. But Apple became suspicious when his level of network activity "increased exponentially" before his resignation, and officials say he ultimately admitted downloading self-driving vehicle technology files to his wife's laptop. "We're working with authorities on this matter and will do everything possible to make sure this individual and any other individuals involved are held accountable for their actions".
China: Tit-for-tat tariffs will ‘destroy’ US-China trade
The administration will consult on the products over the summer, and make a final decision on tariffs after August 30. Chinese 10-year treasury futures for September delivery, the most-traded contract, gained 0.34 percent to 95.830.
An internal investigation revealed that in the days before Zhang's resignation, his Apple network activity "increased exponentially", the complaint said. There is also security footage that shows Zhang visited the Apple campus in late April, accessing both hardware and software laboratories in that visit. The FBI also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Effective May 5, Zhang was "voluntarily terminated", and according to the complaint, said he is employed by XMotors at its Mountain View, Calif., office.
The FBI learned on July 7 that Zhang booked a last-minute fly from San Jose, Calif., to Beijing, with a final destination in Hangzhou. At the airport, Zhang was intercepted by federal agents and "arrested without incident". The formal process of reading of the criminal charging document to him is scheduled for July 27, though he is yet to enter a plea. He is facing a recommended 10 years of imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, a $100 special assessment, and three years of supervised release.