A Chinese citizen has pleaded guilty to the theft of agricultural secrets from the United States, which is said to have ended up in the hands of scientists across the pond.
Xiang Haitao, who previously lived in Chesterfield, Missouri, took a position at Monsanto and its subsidiary The Climate Corporation, the US Department of Justice (DoJ), between 2008 and 2017. said on Thursday.
Monsanto and The Climate Corporation developed an online platform for farmers to manage field and yield information to improve land productivity. One aspect of this technology was an algorithm called Nutrient Optimizer, which US prosecutors said was “a valuable trade secret and its intellectual property.”
According to the DoJ, the former employee stole this information “for the benefit of a foreign government, namely the People’s Republic of China”.
In June 2017, Xiang left these companies and boarded a flight back to China a day later. The 44-year-old brought him to the attention of airport officials who were conducting a search – but it was only later that investigators found copies of the Nutrient Optimizer stored on his electronic devices.
Xiang was able to leave the United States and began working for the Soil Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
However, while on a return trip to the United States, Xiang was arrested and charged. The Chinese national has faced charges of industrial espionage conspiracy and faces up to 15 years in prison, a maximum of three years supervised release and a fine of up to US $ 5 million.
The conviction is due to take place on April 7th.
“Mr. Xiang used his insider status with a large international company to steal valuable trade secrets for use in his native China,” commented US Attorney Sayler Fleming for the Eastern District of Missouri. “We cannot allow US or foreign nationals to share sensitive business information with competitors in other countries, and we will continue our vigorous criminal enforcement of industrial espionage and trade secret laws.”
Monsanto meanwhile pleaded guilty in December on 30 “environmental crimes,” including the illegal use of a Hawaii-banned pesticide. The settlement agreement provides for a $ 12 million fine. Bayer has taken over Monsanto. closed in 2018 and now faces a potential Class action from investors and a $ 2.5 billion claim for failed due diligence claims.
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