The reasons for revisiting the topic are many. The facts show that the death of Shane Todd was most likely not a suicide, as reported, but a homicide. Both the Singaporean and American governments chose not to pursue the case. This leads to point two, which is that the death was a political land mine due to the parties involved. Dr. Todd worked for IME, a Singaporean think tank. He believed that the technology transfer and project was illegal, and involved Huawei (1) – a sketchy Chinese firm and could jeopardize American security (2). The Singaporean government didn’t want to be involved in a scandal of that magnitude.
Shane resigned and purchased tickets to return home. He never made it home because, within 48 hours of his last day of work, he was murdered. This brings up point number three; Shane specialized in working with gallium nitride (GaN), which has tremendous military potential. Shane’s project dealt with GaN, and he resigned early, leaving both IME and Huawei in a lurch. If he were murdered, his role with GaN and IME/Huawei would most likely be the cause. Based on the facts of the case and actors involved, it is time for Americans to push for a new investigation into the death of one of our own.
Which leads to the final point, Beijing is increasingly aggressive in pursuing its goals for control and military dominance by any means necessary (3). Tools used to achieve this include kidnap and even murder (4). And they have even done this on American soil.
Beijing’s Battle for Tech with Military Applications
In this work, I will first frame the discourse by explaining China’s thirst for technology with the potential for military use. The article will then discuss Shane, the nature of his work and expose the circumstances surrounding his death. Subsequently, you will be shown why it is reasonable to suspect that Shane was murdered and how it would fit with a disconcerting new trend emerging from the apparatchiks in Beijing.
Beijing is on a buying spree. As of February 24th of this year, China spent $23 billion in mergers and acquisitions of American companies. That is more than they spent in 2014 and 2015 combined. Hiding behind front companies, the communist party seeks to purchase or pilfer tech that it is incapable of producing.
Washington is alarmed by this increase (5), especially when it involves Chinese firms acquiring technology with a potential for non-civilian use. Such is the case when they pursue firms which specialize in dual-use civilian/military tech. Such a concern was at the heart of US scrutiny of a variety of deals as of late. China sought to acquire or control electrical stalwarts such as Western Digital and Fairchild Semiconductors, just to name a couple.
One deal, in particular, should have and did raise red flags. It involved a company called Phillips and its Light Emitting Diode (LED) division (6). While LED use is fairly common, Phillips has specialized expertise in gallium nitride (GaN) whose use is not. The potential applications of GaN run the gamut from commercial to military and are a game changer. Based on its potential to reform the military landscape, the transfer of GaN know-how is tightly controlled. Washington does not want such technology falling into the hands of the Chinese army. For years, Beijing has put relentless pressure toward acquiring and harnessing the power of GaN.
This brings us back to the death of Shane Todd and his untimely demise. A botched Singaporean “investigation” into what was called a “suicide” was little more than a comedy of errors. It seemed as if the Singapore Police Force (SPF), its government and Shane’s firm (IME) were more interested in proving a politically expedient alternative to a tougher question. Who killed Shane Todd?
Unfortunately, even years later, his death has left more questions than answers (7).
Shane Todd, Murdered in Singapore?
“Mom, I’m going to call you every week, and if you don’t hear from me for a week, call the American embassy.” Several times, he told his parents that he felt he was under threat because of his work with the Chinese (8).
In June 2012, the body of American scientist Dr. Shane Todd was found after what was called an apparent suicide. Like most families, his found the news disturbing if not unbelievable. He had exhibited no signs of depression.
If anything, he was relieved to be leaving his job in Singapore. This was especially true in light of Shane’s contention that he felt threatened and feared for his life there.
When told that Shane had committed suicide, they were doubtful. Why would he do such a thing when he’d exhibited no depression and had procured employ back home?
To them, the “suicide” merited further scrutiny. They contacted the police in Singapore, who tried to assuage the family and assured them a thorough investigation had been done, and Shane had, in fact, killed himself.
Shane was an athletic scholar who wrestled, played rugby and won honors in science. After completing a degree in electrical engineering and then a master’s, Shane pursued and obtained a doctorate in “groundbreaking work on high-frequency, silicon-based transmission lines” from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
After graduating, Shane signed on with the Institute of Microelectronics (IME) in December of 2010. The institute was a think tank within the government’s Agency for Science, Technology, and Advanced Research.
Within months of his arrival, Shane was tasked with finding equipment vital to GaN research. He identified the product of an American firm called Veeco to be the best choice and Shane was tasked to train on it.
Most of what he did for IME in Singapore was little more than a mystery to his family. They only knew that as time when on, Shane was ever more uncomfortable working for IME and decided to end his three-year contract early. The possibility of jeopardizing national security and his well being played a paramount role in that decision.
It was with this backdrop that the Todd family traveled to Singapore to investigate Shane’s death. Based on what Shane had told them about his fears, they suspected the potential for foul play. The trip to Singapore was meant to help quell any doubts.
Upon arriving, they were greeted by the police and told that a thorough and impartial investigation had been done. They would be shown all of the evidence and facts of the sad event. Nonetheless, the SPF maintained that there was no hint of foul play.
Suicide or Murder?
After speaking with the police the Todds found more questions than answers. It appeared as if the SPF was more concerned with confirming the coroner’s assertion of suicide than to conduct an open investigation. This proved to be true as they gave the family conflicting stories of his death.
When facts were inconsistent with a suicide, the police merely changed them. For example, when they were shown photos of the crime scene which were at odds with other “facts”, those photos were doctored or even removed from evidence (7). The family was soon astounded at the shoddy police work and red flags surrounding Shane’s death.
Initially the coroner’s report stated that Shane had committed suicide by constructing an elaborate device, “The police said he had drilled holes into his bathroom wall, bolted in a pulley, then slipped a black strap through the pulley and wrapped it around the toilet several times. He then tethered the strap to his neck and jumped from a chair” (8).
After speaking to the police, the Todds visited Shane’s apartment; the scene of the crime. To their surprise little seemed to corroborate what they had been told by the SPF. This was especially true of the “elaborate hanging device” Shane had allegedly used. The Todd’s found no holes in the marble walls to support such a structure. Surely such evidence would not be destroyed.
Even more astonishing to them was the fact that there did not appear to be evidence of an ongoing investigation of any sort. It was as if the SPF merely considered it a suicide and did not entertain other options. The crime scene had not been taped off, the apartment was open to contamination and little care had been taken to preserve the scene.
The Todds confronted the SPF with their findings and various concerns. When faced with difficult questions, the SPF changed their story. After being shown that the suicide could not have occurred as reported, the police demurred. They explained that Shane had not hung himself via that elaborate device but merely used a laptop strap instead.
But even this “fact” could have helped determine if Shane had acted alone. Both the strap and towel allegedly used in the hanging were found to have the DNA of a Malaysian and ethnic Chinese on them. The SPF did not attempt to match that evidence to anyone associated with the crime and subsequently destroyed it. This typified the nightmare the Todds would find themselves in.