HTC's ex-lead designer may have leaked info to China's Chengdu government

HTC's exlead designer is a jerk

The latest development on the recent HTC saga reveals that Thomas Chien, the arrested ex-VP of Product Design, was possibly lured by the Chengdu municipal government to set up a phone company in China. According to Taiwan's Next Magazine (pictured above by sister publication Apple Daily), Chien flew to Chengdu several times in the first half of this year, which got HTC suspicious since it doesn't have any direct business there.

The alleged offer was that if Chien left HTC with some of the technology plus some money, then the municipal government would -- through another company it set up -- take care of the remaining costs for opening the factory, production and marketing. Previous reports say while still at HTC, the ex-exec had e-mailed some confidential Sense 6.0 files to external contacts, but there's no confirmation on whether those people are linked to the Chengdu government.

Before getting caught, the furthest that Chien got to was setting up his Xiaoyu (meaning "little jade") mobile phone design firm in Taiwan, as well as Yu ("jade") in mainland China ahead of collaborating with the Chengdu government. Chien and his two accomplices -- ex-R&D director Wu Chien-hung and ex-design team senior manager Justin Huang -- also used an external design firm to invoice HTC NT$20 million (about US$668,000, and twice as much as previously reported) between May and July for the One's design, when in fact the project was all done in-house.

Reports also say in the first hearing of the case today, the court heard that investigators found NT$7.8 million (about US$262,100) worth of cash -- all fresh NT$1,000 bills (about US$34) -- in Chien's Audi car which was, ironically, still parked at HTC; but Chien said he couldn't remember where the money came from. This goes on top of near NT$8 million (about US$268,800) confiscated from Chien and Wu -- NT$6 million and over NT$1 million, respectively.

Chien and Wu are still in custody, whereas Huang was released on bail over the weekend. We will keep an eye out for further developments.