Two cases involving stolen seed by Chinese natives have been unveiled by federal prosecutors this week.
One case consists of two scientists stealing and transferring seed from a Kansas research facility while the other in Iowa involved six men conspiring to steal patented seed corn from two America’s leading seed companies, DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto. It is unclear at this time if the two cases are related.
According to FBI, two agricultural scientists from Weiqiang Zhang, 47, Manhattan, Kansas, and Wengui Yan, 63, Stuttgart, Arkansas were charged with trying to steal samples of variety seed from a Kansas biopharmaceutical company’s research facilities.
United States Attorney Barry Grisson said Zhang and Yan were charged with one count of conspiracy to steal trade secrets.
A federal Arkansas Judge ruled on Dec. 13 for Yan to remain in custody while Zhang hearing is set for Tuesday, Dec. 17.
An affidavit filed in court stated, U.S. Customs and Border Protection found stolen seeds in the luggage of group of visitors from China returning home on Aug. 7. During the Chinese delegation’s visit to U.S., stolen seeds were delivered to the members of the delegation.
Zhang and Yan -both natives of China and living legally in the U.S. - arranged for the Chinese delegation to visit the U.S. During the visit Yan, who worked for the U.S. Dept. of agriculture (USDA) as rice geneticists at the Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center, picked up the group and took them to the center.
The court records indicated similar seeds were found at Zhang’s residence in August. Zhang worked for the business, identified only as Company A in the legal records.
If convicted, Zhang and Yan could face up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
A full-scaled FBI investigation took place after an employee of DuPont Pioneer found a Chinese man kneeling in the company’s research field appearing to be removing plants. The man escaped but the employee was able to retrieve the license plate. FBI said the car was rented to Mo Hailong.
The yearlong investigation revealed Mo Hailong, director of the international business of the Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group Co., had been traveling the Midwest collecting samples from key research fields. This week the FBI arrested Mo Hailong and charged him with conspiracy to steal trade secrets.
After tracking Mo Hailong’s activities, FBI found he was not working alone. Filed court documents stated other unnamed conspirators were involved including employees of the U.S. seed companies. The thefts took place between Sept. 2011 and Oct. 2012.
Pioneer and Monsanto are both cooperating with the investigation.