In the name of China or not? A Chinese man stole software from his employer and wanted to smuggle it into his home country. He faces up to 15 years imprisonment.

A Chinese man has to stand before a US court for stealing software from his former employer Monsanto.

 Chinese steals agricultural software from Monsanto - up to 15 years imprisonment

Among other things, this includes a prediction algorithm that helps farmers achieve higher harvests.

 Chinese steals agricultural software from Monsanto - up to 15 years imprisonment

Monsonato was bought by Bayer in 2018 for over 60 billion dollars.

That's what it is about

  • A 44-year-old Chinese stole software from his employer, the agricultural giant Monsanto.

  • He faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a possible fine of five million dollars.

  • The Chinese government denies that Xiang acted on behalf of the government.

A Chinese citizen has admitted industrial espionage in the USA against the agricultural giant Monsanto, which is now part of the German Bayer Group. The 44-year-old imaging scientist Xiang Haitao pleaded guilty to the conspiracy to engage in industrial espionage on behalf of China, according to the US Department of Justice on Thursday.

Software to improve crops

According to the Justice Department, Xiang stole software developed by Monsanto to help farmers improve their crop yields. Specifically, it is about an online digital agricultural software platform that farmers can use to collect, store and visualize agricultural field data. A key component of the platform is a prediction algorithm known as the “Nutrient Optimizer”.

Exposed on the way to the new employer

In June 2017, one day after leaving Monsanto and The Climate Corporation, Xiang attempted to travel to China on a one-way plane ticket. While waiting for boarding, federal officials searched Xiang himself and his luggage. Investigators found an electronic device that contained copies of the Nutrient Optimizer. Xiang flew to China to join his new employer, the Soil Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The next time he entered the United States, he was arrested.

Xiang is due to be sentenced on April 7th. He faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a possible fine of five million dollars (4.6 million Swiss francs). He worked for Monsanto and its subsidiary The Climate Corporation from 2008 to 2017.

China's government interprets the case as a «private action»

In 2019, Xiang was charged by the US authorities with a conspiracy to commit industrial espionage “on behalf of China”. The Chinese State Department said that Washington was trying to use the case to back up its allegations of industrial espionage against China. In fact, it is a “normal, isolated incident” that the US government is trying to play up.

World's largest agricultural company

After being acquired by Bayer in 2018 for over 60 billion US dollars, Monsanto is part of the world's largest agricultural company. The company grew up producing seeds and herbicides. From 1990 Monsanto also developed genetically modified foods. Transgenic maize varieties became known.

The company has come under criticism and court hearings around the world for a broad-spectrum herbicide it has developed with the controversial active ingredient glyphosate. This is considered to be potentially carcinogenic. After a wave of lawsuits in the US, the parent company Bayer had reached a formal agreement with the plaintiff's lawyers and promised a payment of up to two billion dollars (1.84 billion Swiss francs).

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(AFP/pco)

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By Teresa Tapmleton

Teresa Tampleton has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Nizh TEkegram, Teresa Tampleton worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teresa@ntelegram.com 1-800-268-7341

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