WASHINGTON – A Chinese man pleaded guilty in a U.S. court Wednesday to stealing patent-protected corn seed from agribusiness giants Monsanto and DuPont to take back to China for commercial use.
Robert Mo Hailong, 46, participated in a plot to steal inbred corn seeds from the two U.S. companies so that his then-employer, Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group, could use them in its own seed business, the U.S. Department of Justice said.
Hailong “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 department said in a statement.
“The stolen inbred seeds constitute the valuable intellectual property of DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto.”
Hailong faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
The guilty plea came a week after five people were charged in a scheme to steal trade secrets for Chinese-controlled firms from U.S. chemical giant DuPont.
A grand jury indictment unsealed in San Francisco said the group, including three China natives, sought DuPont trade secrets on producing chloride-route titanium dioxide, or TiO2, a valuable white pigment used in paint, plastics and paper.
The Justice Department said the theft was on behalf of “companies controlled by the government of the People’s Republic of China.”