A Chinese man who was charged with the offense of conspiring a plot to steal high-tech U.S. corn seeds has admitted his crime in federal court in Iowa on Wednesday for participating in the plot to steal the patent-protected seeds with the intention of transporting them to China.
According to the the US Department of Justice, Mo Hailong, 46, was involved in a plot to steal inbred corn seeds from the two US companies so that his former employers, Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group, could use them in their own brand of seeds.
Federal authorities began investigating Mo Hailong for conspiring to steal corn seeds from DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto after his suspicious activity attracted the attention of local security staff.
Mo was working as the director of the international business of the Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group Co, Ltd, a part of Da Bei Nong Empire that also runs a wide range of agro based businesses involving seeds, animal feed, and livestock.
On being contacted by Reuters, company spokesman Chen Zhongheng said he was unaware about the situations and refused to make any further comments.
The Department said the following in a statement regarding Mo Hailong
“Mo admitted to participating in the theft of inbred – or parent – corn seeds from fields in the southern district of Iowa for the purpose of transporting those seeds to China.
“The stolen inbred seeds constitute the valuable intellectual property of DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto.”
According to The Guardian, the crime could carry a punishment of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. However, as part of his plea agreement, he will not be sentenced to more than five years in prison. Mo will be sentenced at a later date.
The guilty plea came a week after five people were incarcerated for being involved in a plot to steal trade secrets for Chinese-controlled firms from DuPont.
Mo’s sister, Mo Yun, who was charged with trying to steal patented U.S. seeds in July 2014, is married to the founder and chairman of the conglomerate.
A grand jury indictment unfolded in San Francisco, alleging that the group, which included three Chinese people, sought DuPont trade secrets on producing chloride-route titanium dioxide, or TiO2, a brownish white pigment used in paint, varnishes, pulp, and paper.
Earlier, following the arrests of the convicted, Des Moines Register reported that the FBI had invoked the broader powers afforded by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, to gather evidence against two Chinese siblings accused of plotting to steal patented seed from Iowa cornfields.
Further, it also reported that, in a move that defense attorneys hailed as “breathtaking,” prosecutors planned to introduce evidence at trial gathered under FISA, which allows the FBI to bypass a traditional search warrant. Agents seeking evidence instead only needed to get approval from a secret Washington, D.C.-based court designed to hear complex national security cases.
Also according to Des Moines Register, Chinese companies cost U.S. businesses an estimated $48.2 billion through intellectual property theft, including trade secret theft, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission.
The DuPont Pioneer attorney believes that the company was robbed of their precious time and labor. In a recent court filing, he wrote that bringing hybrid corn seeds to market costs the company years of time and “hundreds of millions” of dollars in research and development.
The prosecutors went all out versus a sluggish defense. They presented over 500,000 documents, 50 hours of audio tapes and two years’ worth of surveillance footage generated by the investigation, according to court records.
The United States Justice Department said the theft was on behalf of “companies controlled by the government of the People’s Republic of China.”
[Photo by Freestockimages]