Truth, Inspiration, Hope.

French Company Smuggled Military Chips to China and Russia, Investigation Alleges

Neil Campbell
Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
Published: July 27, 2023
China Russia smuggle chips France Ommic Semiconductor Military
A file photo of lasers at the University of Amsterdam during a visit by French President Emmanuel Macron in April of 2023. A French company, Ommic, which is said to make high-level semiconductors for military applications, was allegedly purchased by a Chinese businessman and skirted export controls to smuggle its wares to China and Russia, a new expose by a French newspaper says. (Image: LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP via Getty Images)

A French semiconductor manufacturer that was bought out by an American firm has been accused of smuggling military-grade chips to China and Russia.

A July 27 Associated Press wire release says that Ommic SAS, a company whose products are described as “advanced technology with possible military uses” is under investigation for exploiting loopholes in export and sanction controls after a report by French newspaper Le Parisien was summarized as stating “investigators have uncovered nearly 12 million euros (more than $13 million) worth of suspected exports of technology.” 

AP cited a “French judicial official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of secrecy laws that cover magistrates’ probes” who was paraphrased as saying magistrates are now “investigating suspected illegal exports, forgery and other suspected crimes.”

Two people from France and two people from China are said to have been under investigation since March. Two of the four are said by the source to “face preliminary charges of handing over protected know-how to a foreign power.”

La Parisien was summarized as revealing “the company’s French manager is suspected of having personally delivered chips to Russian clients,” and that “products were also exported to Chinese armament manufacturers with the help of forged paperwork.”

France’s newspaper also was summarized as saying “a Beijing-based Chinese businessman with ties to China’s defense industry bought a majority stake and took control of Ommic in 2018.”

A July 27 article on the story by Bloomberg says the company was sold to Macom Technology Solutions, a U.S-based firm valued at $4.6 billion and traded on the Nasdaq, in May of this year.

The article also says the Chinese businessman “bought 94% of Ommic’s shares via a French-based investment fund in a bid to transfer technologies to China and Russia.” 

Ommic was acquired by Macom for roughly $43 million, AP notes, adding, “Macom said Ommic’s portfolio of chips and its design know-how would strengthen its position in telecommunications, industrial, aerospace and defense markets.”

Bloomberg paraphrased Minister of Industry Roland Lescure as telling French media that “the alleged perpetrators have been stopped and are now being investigated in response to Le Parisien’s report. He didn’t provide any details on the allegations or the people targeted.”

Lescure was quoted as adding, “When the government calls out and warns about the risk of industrial espionage, it’s not like playing James Bond.”

“Economic war exists and France has the means to win it,” the Minister added.

The outlet added that the expose comes with key timing because, “The allegations emerged a day before French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire travels to China to discuss economic ties with the country, and touts France’s assets for Chinese investors.”

“Simultaneously, President Emmanuel Macron is currently touring the South Pacific in a bid to assert France amid growing Chinese clout,” authors added.