Skip to main content

U.S. senators seek to stop funding Singapore firm after American's death

By Liz Neisloss, CNN
March 18, 2013 -- Updated 0526 GMT (1326 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Montana senators aim to stop funding Singapore firm after U.S. employee's death
  • Research engineer Shane Todd was found hanged in his apartment last June
  • Singapore coroner called it a suicide, but Todd's family says his death was suspicious
  • Todd was working on semiconductor material Gallium Nitride, which has military uses

Singapore (CNN) -- A police investigation into one man's death has now become an issue between two countries.

Singapore's Foreign Ministry on Sunday said it was "deeply disappointed" by the attempt of two U.S. senators to block funding to the country's state-backed Institute of Microelectronics in a dispute over the investigation into the death of American who had worked there.

U.S. Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester of Montana recently introduced a measure to block U.S. funding to the institute until U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder certifies that the FBI had full access to all evidence related to the death of research engineer Shane Todd.

Todd's parents, who are from Montana, had raised the issue with the senators in early March. Baucus told reporters in Washington that he will work until he is "satisfied that the parents have closure, and I am convinced there has been no national security breach or improper transfer of technology that puts America at risk."

According to a statement from the senators, in 2010, IME received nearly $500,000 from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, part of the U.S. Department of Defense responsible for the development of new technologies for use by the military.

It was unclear what proportion of IME's overall budget the U.S. funds amounted to.

Parents call death suspicious

Todd was found hanged in his apartment in June, just days after resigning from a job at IME. His death was reportedly called a suicide in initial reports by a Singapore coroner. A further investigation is under way in Singapore before a final coroner's report.

Todd's parents consider their son's death suspicious and think he could have been killed because of his work on a semiconductor project between IME and the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.

READ: Montana family disputes Singapore police probe into son's death

The Singapore police last week issued a statement asserting that they were cooperating with the FBI and said they also told the FBI they will share evidence obtained so far "in accordance with the legal framework of both countries."

The senators' latest move came despite a meeting between Baucus and Singapore's Foreign Minister K Shanmugam on Tuesday.

Shanmugam has said IME is subject to "rigorous internal audits" and offered to allow the United States to conduct its own "process audit" of IME as well.

Hard drive holds evidence?

Singapore police have also sought help from the FBI to obtain a hard drive that had been in Shane Todd's apartment and may contain relevant evidence.

His parents say they found the drive in their son's apartment after police had already conducted their search.

They also have said that experts who've examined the drive say someone accessed the drive after Todd's death.

The parents have told CNN they are holding the drive "at an undisclosed location."

Both IME and Huawei have denied any joint projects related to Todd's work were being conducted.

Security concerns

Huawei is one of the world's largest telecommunications equipment makers.

Along with its Chinese rival ZTE, it has been seeking to expand its business in Western markets.

But at times, the two companies have met with resistance over security concerns and fears over their ties to the Chinese government.

In October, a report prepared by the U.S. House Intelligence Committee said that "the risks associated with Huawei's and ZTE's provision of equipment to U.S. critical infrastructure could undermine core U.S. national-security interests."

The two Chinese firms disputed the reports' findings, saying their products were safe for use in the United States.

Todd's parents say his work had involved the use of an advanced semiconductor material Gallium Nitride, which has both commercial and military applications.

They say he had expressed concerns about the legality of his work and whether it could be harmful to U.S. security.

Singapore denies there were any illegal transfers of technology between IME and Huawei.

In a statement from Singapore's Foreign Ministry, Singapore also objected to the "pressure" in this case and said the country has "made every effort to be open and transparent in both the investigation of Mr. Todd's death and the IME's projects."

"We will let the outcome of the investigation and coroner's inquiry speak for themselves."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 0023 GMT (0823 HKT)
Wilson Raj Perumal tells CNN how he rigged World Cup games: "I was giving orders to the coach."
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 0920 GMT (1720 HKT)
Our whole solar system appears to be inside a searing gas bubble, scientists say.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 0002 GMT (0802 HKT)
One journalist murdered, another still being held by ISIS -- a ransom negotiator talks to CNN about the delicate business of trying to get a hostage home alive.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1402 GMT (2202 HKT)
The accidental killing of a gun instructor raises an "absurd question," writes Mel Robbins.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
ISIS has made surprise gains in Iraq and Syria in recent months, but may begin to suffer setbacks on the battlefield.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1844 GMT (0244 HKT)
The fear of Russian invasion is receding but peace may still be tricky to find.
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1228 GMT (2028 HKT)
Was a police officer justified in shooting and killing Michael Brown?
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1654 GMT (0054 HKT)
Don't like the country you live in? Meet the people who created their own "micronations."
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 2157 GMT (0557 HKT)
The signs exist that indicate U.S. airstrikes into Syria are on the way.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 0946 GMT (1746 HKT)
We asked you what you would like to know about Ebola. Experts answer some of your most common questions and concerns.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT