SINGAPORE: Cops bend to FT, let FBI investigate engineer’s death

After months of alleged dawdling, an article in the Financial Times seems to have persuaded Singapore police to let the FBI help investigate a U.S. scientist’s death.

Shane Todd, a 31 year old electronics engineer from Montana, was found hanging dead in his Singapore apartment last June. His death was initially deemed a suicide, but Todd’s parents said it was murder, the result of knowing too much about Singapore and Chinese attempts to develop gallium nitride (GaN) amplifiers.

According to the Financial Times report, Todd had been working in Singapore for 18 months at the country’s Institute of Microelectronics (IME). Files found on his computer hard drive suggest he was working on a GaN project in collaborating with Huawei Technologies, a Chinese telecom provider that a U.S. House of Representatives intelligence committee last year described as a national security threat following a lengthy investigation.

Professor Robert York of UC Santa Barbara, a leader in GaN research, claims the technology “could be used for a number of military applications: high-powered radar, electronic warfare including signal jamming and even potentially some weapons.”

Shane’s mother, Mary Todd, told the FT that her son had grown increasingly nervous about the implications of his work and feared it might compromise U.S. security. Possessing such information, it’s seems plausible someone may have wanted the engineer gone, especially just days before his expected return to the U.S. to start a new job.

The Todds say evidence in their son’s Singapore apartment suggest his death was no suicide, and that investigators fumbled by claiming it was. Singapore cops had said Shane drilled holes in his bathroom wall to install a pulley used in his hanging. But when family members visited the flat shortly after his death, they found none of that. The family likewise claims police failed to account for an extremely inaccurate suicide note, for scrapes and bruises on the victim, and initially failed to fingerprint or photograph the apartment. Finally, a back-up hard drive reviewed by a computer analyst reportedly shows that Shane’s IME files had been opened three days after he was found dead. One file in particular contained the recipe for the GaN device he had been working on.

After months of urging the Singapore police and FBI to further investigate their son’s death, the Todds told their story to the Financial Times in a report that was published February 15. Prior to that coverage, Singapore police had declined the FBI’s offer to assist in the investigation. But in the article’s wake, police now say they will work with U.S. law enforcement. Indeed, Singapore media outlet AsiaOne suggests that the city-state has actively sought help from the FBI in a headline on March 3 titled “Singapore asks US to help probe mystery hanging.” The article fails to mention that police had previously refused the FBI help.

Western media is often painted as the source of a multitude of evils, but it seems that the global attention drawn by the Financial Times report was just the pressure needed to compel the Singapore Police Force to allow FBI involvement in the case.

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