Kerry presses Singapore on death of American

Kerry presses Singapore on death of American

Secretary of State John Kerry urged his Singaporean counterpart this week to cooperate with U.S. law enforcement agencies on the investigation into the suspicious death of American Shane Todd.

Todd was found hanging in the bathroom of his Singapore apartment last June, just days before he was planning to return to the United States. He had been working with the Institute of Microelectronics (IME), a research institution linked to the Singaporean government. Todd’s parents, who believe he was murdered, retrieved a hard drive from his apartment they say shows Todd was worried Singapore was planning to share his highly sensitive research with Huawei, a firm many have alleged is closely tied to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

The initial Singapore police autopsy report said that Todd’s death was a suicide, according to a report in the Financial Times¸ but the Todd family said the autopsy report conflicted with what they found in Todd’s apartment. Todd’s parents also found an external hard drive that contained all of his research, including a plan for IME and Huawei to co-develop an amplifier device powered by gallium nitride (GaN), a durable semiconductor material that could also be applied to radar and satellite communications.

The Singapore police rejected the FBI’s offers of assistance in the investigation for months, prompting the extensive intervention of Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT). On Wednesday, Kerry raised the matter with Singaporean Foreign Minister K Shanmugam in their bilateral meeting, a State Department spokesman told The Cable.

"They discussed the case of Shane Todd’s death in Singapore during their meeting," Spokesman Patrick Ventrell said. "Secretary Kerry noted that the FBI and U.S. Embassy in Singapore continue their discussions with Singaporean authorities, and encouraged close cooperation going forward in the investigation."

State Department officials met with Todd’s family in Washington on March 1, and Kerry met with Baucus on March 7 to discuss the case. The two men worked closely together in the Senate for many years.

"The senator asked the secretary to look into the Todd case, and the secretary agreed and is doing that, as discussed," Ventrell said.

Baucus also met with Shanmugan Wednesday and pledged to do "whatever it takes" to get to the bottom of what happened to Todd.

"Today’s meeting is about getting answers — getting complete answers. So far we’ve been unable to get the answers we need to know what happened to Shane Todd, and we are unable to know the degree to which there might be some breach of national security," Baucus said before the meeting.

Baucus has also met with the Todd family, as well as FBI Director Robert Mueller, the Singaporean ambassador to the United States, and White House officials on the matter. On Thursday, Baucus and Sen. John Tester (D-MT) introduced a bill that would withhold a $500,000 DOD grant to IME until the FBI gets full access to the investigation file.

The Todd family wants the FBI to take the lead on the death investigation. After his meetings, Shanmugam extended an offer to have the FBI be involved and review all the evidence, but not take over the probe.

"The institute involved, the research institute, is subject to a very rigorous audit, and we are very happy for a U.S. team to come down and look at the project, and it will be very clear that there was no transfer of technology," he said.

Baucus said that was a step in the right direction, but not enough. "Singapore’s promise to share all evidence with the FBI is a significant step forward and I appreciate the minister’s time and attention to Shane’s case, now we have to keep the pressure on to ensure that commitment is fulfilled — the proof is in the pudding," he said.

Huawei’s spokesperson in Washington, Francis Hopkins, provided an official statement to The Cable denying that Huawei was ever involved in Todd’s project in IME, though acknowledging that cooperation was discussed.

"IME approached Huawei on one occasion to cooperate with them in the GaN field, but we decided not to accept, and consequently do not have any cooperation with IME related to GaN," the statement said. "Huawei’s global R&D and sales relate only to telecommunications solutions for civil and commercial use. Huawei does not do military equipment or technology nor do we discuss it with partners."