Chinese national pleads guilty in US court for theft of trade secrets

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WASHINGTON (REUTERS, AFP) – A Chinese national pleaded guilty on Thursday (January 6) in federal court in Missouri to conspiring to steal trade secrets from agricultural company Monsanto for the benefit of the Chinese government, the US Department of Justice said .

Xiang Haitao, who was employed by Monsanto and a subsidiary from 2008 to 2017, has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit economic espionage and is expected to be sentenced on April 7, the ministry said. Justice in a press release.

He faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

Federal officials found Xiang in possession of copies of a proprietary predictive algorithm developed by Monsanto as he waited to board a flight to China in June 2017, the statement said.

He was allowed to travel to China, where he worked for the Institute of Soil Sciences at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the statement said.

He was arrested on his return to the United States, the statement said.

“Despite Xiang’s agreements to protect Monsanto’s intellectual property and repeated training on its obligations to do so, Xiang has now admitted to stealing a trade secret from Monsanto, transferring it to a memory card and attempting to bring it along. in the People’s Republic of China for the benefit of the Chinese government, ”said Deputy Attorney General Matthew Olsen.

“Mr. Xiang used his insider status in a large international corporation to steal valuable trade secrets for use in his native China,” said US Attorney Sayler Fleming for the Eastern District of Missouri.

“We cannot allow US citizens or foreign nationals to transmit sensitive business information to competitors in other countries.”

A Chinese foreign ministry, speaking in 2019 when Xiang was indicted by U.S. officials, said Washington was trying to use the case to support its accusations that China is stealing technology from U.S. companies.

“We resolutely oppose attempts by the US side to use the case, which we view as an ordinary and isolated incident, to exaggerate claims of organized and systematic attempts by China to steal US intellectual property.” spokesman Geng Shuang said.

Monsanto was acquired by Bayer AG in 2018.

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