Earlier today, several top designers at HTC were arrested in Taipei under suspicion of fraudulent expense claims, as well as stealing trade secrets ahead of leaving the company to run a new mobile design firm in both Taiwan and mainland China. Five people were interrogated, with the most notable ones being Vice President of Product Design Thomas Chien (pictured above), R&D director Wu Chien Hung and design team senior manager Justin Huang (who also personally sketched out the One’s design). Chien and Wu are taken into custody, whereas the others were released on bail (see video after the break). Their offices were also raided yesterday as part of the investigation.
Reports say HTC chairwoman Cher Wang personally filed a complaint to Taiwan’s Investigation Bureau, which has since learned that Chien, Wu and Huang planned to set up a new design company (which is already registered under the Chinese name “Xiaoyu”) aimed at the mainland Chinese market, and that they would resign after claiming their mid-year bonuses yesterday. The real beef HTC has here is that it apparently caught Chien secretly downloading files related to the upcoming Sense 6.0 UI design, and then shared them with external contacts via e-mail. The Investigation Bureau refused to comment on whether Sense 6.0 is related to the One Max due later this year.
The trio is also accused of making false commission fee claims for the One’s aluminum chassis design. While the design was done in-house, the three men used an external design firm to invoice HTC for over US$334,000 worth of commission fee between May and July, and then they split the money between themselves.
We reached out to HTC for a statement on this matter, but the spokesperson didn’t have much to provide at this moment:
“The matter is under investigation by relevant authorities. We therefore refrain from further comments.”