US prosecutors confirm Uber under criminal investigation

A letter was made public yesterday in Waymo's civil suit against Uber, which confirmed that the ride-share service is under a US criminal investigation.

The US Attorney's Office in Northern California sent the letter to US judge William Alsup last month to share some of what they have learned "in the course of a United States' pending criminal investigation," according to a copy of the paperwork obtained by AFP.

Alsup had referred the case to the justice department to investigate possible criminal charges, but prosecutors had maintained a silence after that.

Information shared by the department with Alsup raised the possibility that Uber operated a programme to hide nefarious tactics, which led to a furore in the courtroom. 

It also led to a delay in the trial for a second time, with the judge setting a new start date of 5 February.

The US Attorney's Office said in the letter to Alsup that they interviewed former Uber manager of global intelligence Richard Jacobs, who said that "employees routinely used non-attributable electronic devices to store and transmit information that they wished to separate from Uber's official systems."

Uber's attorneys assured the judge that no information taken from Waymo ever touched Uber servers.

Meanwhile, Uber Technologies Inc directors were accused of failing to properly review the ride-sharing company's $680 million acquisition of a self-driving technology firm that stands accused of stealing trade secrets from a unit of Alphabet Inc.

The board of Uber approved the purchase of a company owned by former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski, who is accused of stealing seven years of research material about self-driving cars from his former employer, according to an investor's lawsuit in Delaware Chancery Court.

The suit was filed yesterday by Uber investor Lenza McElrath III, who has accused the directors of ignoring ''red flags'' about the 2016 acquisition of Levandowski's firm that amounted to ''an improper and potentially criminal raiding of Google's assets,'' according to the complaint.