Liu Ruopeng is a 35-year-old billionaire who has been called China’s Elon Musk for his accomplishments as a tech pioneer in his country.
The story on how he allegedly stole intellectual property from a United States Department of Defense-funded laboratory and passed it to Chinese researchers was detailed in the book, “Spy Schools: How the CIA, FBI, and Foreign Intelligence Secretly Exploit American Universities” by Pulitzer Prize-winning ProPublica Journalist Daniel Golden.
Before Liu founded Kuang-Chi in 2010, he worked in the lab of Duke professor of electrical and computer engineering and renowned metamaterials researcher David Smith.
Smith had reportedly been working on a U.S. military-funded project which involved the development of a prototype for an invisibility cloak.
While the prototype doesn’t exactly make its user disappear, it can make objects invisible to microwave signals.
Liu allegedly even convinced the professor to allow him to bring his old colleagues into the lab to assist on the projects they were working on.
The Chinese researchers would reportedly take photos of the lab and its contents in secret whenever Smith was away.
When the Chinese researchers finally left, Smith would later discover an exact replica of his invisibility cloak prototype built in Liu’s former lab in China.
The discovery sparked an investigation by the FBI in 2010 to determine whether there was an actual theft of U.S. intellectual property.
“We know that certain government officials and operatives met with him while he was in the United States,” former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence Frank Figliuzzi was quoted by NBC News as saying.
“Was he handled, approached, compromised, recruited, and subsidized when he took it back to China? My theory says yes. This was more than just a grad student taking something that didn’t belong to him.”
Liu has denied all wrongdoing in an interview with Today, calling the accusations of him being a spy as “ridiculous” and “far away from the truth.”
“I don’t want to use the word copy,” Liu said. “People can share the experience … and build something … different.”
Liu was never charged with a crime since the case was closed years later due to insufficient evidence.
It has been nine years since the multi-billionaire graduated from Duke with a Ph.D. Today, he is known as the founder of a $6 billion tech company and the inventor of a jet-powered surfboard.
Featured image via YouTube/Bloomberg