WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A Chinese national pleaded guilty on Thursday in Missouri federal court to conspiring to steal trade secrets from agricultural company Monsanto to benefit the Chinese government, the U.S. Justice Department said.
Xiang Haitao, who was employed by Monsanto and a subsidiary from 2008 to 2017, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit economic espionage and is scheduled to be sentenced on April 7, the Justice Department said in a statement. He faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
Federal officials found Xiang in possession of copies of a proprietary predictive algorithm developed by Monsanto as he was waiting to board a flight to China in June 2017, according to the statement.
He was allowed to fly to China, where he worked for the Chinese Academy of Science’s Institute of Soil Science, it said. He was arrested when he returned to the United States, the statement said.
Monsanto was acquired by Bayer AG in 2018.
(Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Richard Pullin)