US seed corn stolen by employees of Chinese firm "worth US$500 million"

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 July, 2014, 12:19am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 July, 2014, 12:19am


The value of the patented seeds allegedly stolen from US corn companies by staff of a Chinese firm likely exceeds US$500 million, federal prosecutors said.

The new estimate surfaced in a custody hearing on Thursday for Mo Yun, a Chinese woman charged as part of what prosecutors say was a conspiracy involving seven employees of the agriculture biotechnology company to steal trade secrets. Mo is also the wife of Shao Genhuo, the billionaire founder of DBN Group.

The patented seed corn stolen from fields in Iowa and Illinois was among the US firm Pioneer Hi-Bred's highest yielding and most successfully developed seed, FBI special agent Mark Betten testified at the hearing in federal court. Additional seed also is alleged to have been stolen from Monsanto.

Betten said spreadsheets and digital data taken in December 2013 from Mo Hailong, a man arrested in Florida, listed product identification numbers of stolen seed. Of the six men originally indicted, only Mo Hailong is in custody. The government said the other five remained fugitives.

Mo Hailong, who is under house arrest, is the brother of Mo Yun.

At Thursday's hearing, Mo Yun's attorney, Terry Bird, pushed for her release on bond to see her children back in China.

Assistant US prosecutor Jason Griess argued that the charges carried a prison sentence of up to 10 years, that Mo might want to flee the country, and that China had no extradition treaty with the US. A ruling was not made.

A trial date has been set for December 1.