“According to the US Department of Justice’s release on April 8, Xiang Haitao, a Chinese national who used to be an employee of the US company Monsanto, pleaded guilty to the charge in January 2022 that he conspired to steal a trade secret from The Climate Corporation, a subsidiary of Monsanto, and provided it to a foreign government, namely the People’s Republic of China (PRC). He was sentenced to 29 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release and a $150,000 fine for conspiring to commit economic espionage.
Xiang Haitao, 44, was employed by Monsanto from 2008 to 2017. In June 2017, the day after leaving employment with The Climate Corporation, Xiang attempted to travel to China on a one-way airplane ticket. While he was waiting to board his flight, federal officials conducted a search of Xiang’s person and baggage. He was allowed to fly to China where he worked for the Chinese Academy of Science’s Institute of Soil Science. Investigators later discovered that Xiang’s electronic devices contained copies of the Nutrient Optimizer, which is a critical component to Monsanto’s online farming software platform, a proprietary predictive algorithm.When Xiang returned to the United States in November 2019, he was arrested. In January 2022, he pleaded guilty to economic espionage in federal court in Missouri.Matthew Olson, Assistant Attorney General for the National
Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, said, “Economic espionage is a serious offense that can threaten U.S. companies’ competitive advantage, and the National Security Division is committed to holding accountable anyone who steals trade secrets to benefit a foreign government”.”