Former Michelin Man on Trial for Peddling Company Secrets

Marwan Arbache faces a maximum 10-year jail sentence if convicted for offering Bridgestone confidential information about new tire manufacturing techniques.

A former executive at French tire king Michelin went on trialon May 3 accused of attempting to sell company secrets to the firm's main competitor in Japan.

Marwan Arbache faces a maximum 10-year jail sentence if convicted and a heavy fine for offering in a July 2007 email to Japan's Bridgestone to sell them confidential information about tire manufacturing.

Michelin was tipped off by Bridgestone and the Japanese competitor ultimately helped its French rival nail the suspect.

The 34-year-old Arbache refused to make comments when he arrived at the courthouse in Clermont-Ferrand, Michelin's headquarters in central France.

The former executive, who worked seven years for Michelin, is charged with supplying information to a foreign company that could have "undermined the country's fundamental interests," violating trademark secrets and breach of trust.

Michelin has argued that Arbache would have delivered a serious blow to the company if he had succeeded in selling the secrets about new tire manufacturing techniques for heavy transport designed to improve durability.

Arbache, who was arrested in January 2008, had offered to sell the company secrets for about 115,000 euros (US$150,000).

A former director for Europe of Michelin's heavy transport division, Arbache was uncovered in "Operation Fukuda" in which Michelin security officials posing as Japanese clients found out about his dealings.

Lawyers for Arbache argued that no secret documents fell into Brigestone's hands and that their client did not intend to follow through with his offer to sell the information.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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