Federal prosecutors allege seven Chinese spies attempted to steal valuable seed technology from Iowa farms. According to the U.S.A. Today one man has been arrested for stealing trade secrets worth up to $40 million. The prime suspect is identified as Mo Hailong, a Chinese national and permanent U.S. resident who goes by the alias “Robert Mo.” Mo was observed on his knees in a recently planted field owned by DuPont Pioneer in June 2011 which prompted the federal investigation.
Mo was seen touring facilities, meeting with industry officials, and attending symposiums under an assumed name. Mo also used counter-surveillance techniques designed to evade detection.
A farm owned by the Chinese seed company Kings Nower Seeds was the alleged home base for the spy ring. Investigators tracked Mo across the United States purchasing seeds and coordinating with individuals tied to the Beijing-based company. Authorities also confiscated seeds from luggage believed to be owned by executives of Kings Nower Seeeds.
Mo faces up to 10 years in prison and a $5 million fine, and future charges may be brought against co-conspirators. According to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa this could be the state’s first corporate agriculture espionage case of its kind.