by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Oct 18, 2011
The United States charged a Chinese scientist Tuesday with "economic espionage" for stealing trade secrets of major US agribusiness firms to benefit China.
John Huang Kexue, 48, stole secrets on organic insecticides from Dow AgroSciences, where he worked from 2003-2008, and handed them over to research students at or linked to Hunan Normal University, where he also was involved in research, the Justice Department said.
He moreover sought to find production facilities in China for the insecticides "which would allow him to compete directly with Dow", the department said in a statement.
In a plea agreement Huang admitted to one count each of economic espionage "to benefit a component of the Chinese government" and theft of trade secrets.
He faces a prison sentence of up to 15 years on the economic espionage charge and 10 years on the theft of trade secrets charge.
The plea agreement said that "in stealing, transferring and using the trade secrets," Huang "intended to benefit the Hunan Normal University, the National Natural Science Foundation of China, and the 863 Program," all controlled and funded by the Chinese government.
The 863 Program is a Chinese government initiative to develop and acquire high-level technologies to build the country's global position in scientific research and in technology-intensive industries.
The plea agreement said he had used the Dow AgroSciences secrets to apply for grants from the National Natural Science Foundation and the 863 Program in 2007-2010, and that at least two applications to the foundation resulted in funds for research through Hunan Normal.
It did not say if he had received funds from the 863 Program.
The plea agreement said Huang also stole secrets on enzymes for a new food product from another company, identified in a separate statement as Cargill, when he worked there in 2009.
A separate indictment in that case was opened Tuesday in the US state of Minnesota.
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