Trade Espionage Charges Filed Against Former Monsanto Employee

08:47AM Nov 21, 2019
China Espionage
China espionage
( MGN Image )

Formal charges were filed in U.S. District Court in St. Louis this week accusing former Monsanto employee Haitao Xiang of stealing trade secrets from his former employer, Monsanto (now Bayer). A bail hearing in the case is scheduled for Thursday.

According to St. Louis Post Dispatch, Xiang was first detained two years ago boarding a plane to Shanghai, China at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport with proprietary Monsanto software. Prosecutors are asking for Xiang to be held in jail until his trial as he is a flight risk.

Xiang worked for Monsanto and The Climate Corporation from 2008 to 2017 according to a court affidavit quoted by the Post Dispatch. During that time, he worked with the Nutrient Optimizer and its proprietary algorithm, the Post Dispatch reports. Xiang gained a position with the Chinese Academy of Science’s Nanjing Institute of Soil Science in August 2016 and didn’t resign from Monsanto until June 2017.

“We take the protection of trade secrets very seriously for the sustainability of the company and for the importance that plays in providing excellence for the U.S. farmer,” Bayer said in a statement to Agweb. “We work closely with law enforcement agencies when we face insider threat or cyber-attack.  That said, this a personnel issue and we do not comment on personnel matters.”

Xiang could spend up to 10 years in prison if he’s convicted. He is represented by Eric Selig.

This isn’t the first time foreign competitors have attempted to steal from agriculture companies. Read more about seed theft and other trade secret espionage:

Chinese Espionage Includes Agriculture - AgWeb

Trial for GMO Rice Theft Suspects to Begin in Nov. - AgWeb

Seed Thief Pleads Guilty - AgWeb