[cs_content][cs_section parallax=”false” style=”margin: 0px;padding: 45px 0px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 15px;”][x_columnize]One chapter of the saga of China’s agro espionage targeting US research and development of corn has come to a close with the sentencing Mo Hailong, a/k/a Robert Mo, 46, a Chinese national. According to the Department of Justice, Mo was sentenced to 36 months in prison for conspiracy to steal trade secrets. His prison time will be followed by three years of supervised release. A fine, restitution if you will, has not yet been determined. In addition to the prison term and the to-be-determined fine, Mo was forced to forfeit the two farms purchased by Mo, one in Iowa and another in Illinois. Mo emigrated to the US for educational purposes and then stayed, converting his status to that of a lawful permanent resident of the US.
Let there be no doubt, this was and is nation state agro espionage. Mo Hailong was employed as the Director of International Business of the Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group Company, commonly referred to as DBN. DBN is a Chinese conglomerate with a corn seed subsidiary company, Kings Nower Seed. During the multiple years Mo operated, he operated from his Boca Raton home and traveled throughout the heartland purloining contract and proprietary seed corn on behalf of China. His use of alias documentation, allowing him to pose as a Chinese executive so as to be included in agricultural meetings in Iowa during a Chinese presidential visit speaks to the presence of PRC national intelligence capabilities.
[x_alert type=”danger” close=”true”]”According to the plea agreement entered on January 27, Mo Hailong admitted to participating in a long-term conspiracy to steal trade secrets from DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto. Mo Hailong participated in the theft of inbred corn seeds from fields in the Southern District of Iowa and elsewhere for the purpose of transporting the seeds to DBN in China. The stolen inbred, or parent, seeds were the valuable trade secrets of DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto.”[/x_alert][/x_columnize][x_blockquote cite=”U.S. Attorney Kevin E. VanderSchel.” type=”center”]The theft of agricultural trade secrets, and other intellectual property, poses a grave threat to our national economic security,”
[/x_blockquote][x_columnize class=”man”][x_custom_headline type=”center” level=”h3″ looks_like=”h3″ accent=”true”]Agro Espionage Questions Remain[/x_custom_headline]
- What is the role of the US persons who assisted with the real estate and logistics.
- Who are the insiders in Pioneer and Monsanto who are providing the identities of the test fields to Mo and the Kings Nower Seed crew.
- What part, if any, did Pioneer and Monsanto’s foot print in China make them a target for espionage in the United States.
- What role did Pioneer or Monsanto’s Chinese employees in China or the US play?
- Who are the insiders within Pioneer or Monsanto who provided the geocoordinates of the unmarked contract grow fields
- Was either/both Pioneer or Monsanto targeted by the Chinese offensive cyber capabilities?
- Have Pioneer, Monsanto and every other research and development entity tightened up their cyber security?
- How did this affect the seed dealers who violated their sales contract with Pioneer/Monsanto by selling proprietary seed to Mo?
[/x_columnize][cs_text][x_gap size=”2.313em”][x_feature_headline type=”center” level=”h3″ looks_like=”h3″ icon=”500px”]The co-conspirators, where are they?[/x_feature_headline]
Wang Hongwei – A dual Chinese/Canadian citizen – On 28 September 2012, Wang HONGWEI entered the US via land-border between the US/Canada in Vermont. Drove to Burlington and then flew to Chicago, obtained a rental car and traveled to the farm in Monee, IL. On 30 September 2013, gave FBI Surveillance in Burlington, Vermont the slip using aggressive counter-surveillance driving methods. At the US/Canada border crossing he was identified and subjected to a USCBP border inspection. He lied to officers and then recanted when evidence was shown that his story of visiting Burlington was compromised by his United Airline ticket in his possession. 44 bags of corn were found hidden in his luggage and in the vehicle. each of the bags was identical as those which were earlier confiscated at O’hare Airport. In addition, he had a notebook with GPS coordinates of farm plots and pictures of Monsanto and Pioneer fields and facilities. He claimed to have purchased the corn from Mo Hailong.[/cs_text][cs_text]WANG Lei – Vice Chairman of Kings Nower Seed – accompanied MO on his visit to the fields in Iowa, and was part of the VP of China delegation in Des Moines 15/16 February 2012
LIN Yong – PRC National and employee of Kings Nower Seed (per visa application) – involved over the course of the summer of 2012 in the collection of seed from farms located in the Northern Indiana, Illinois, Iowa farmland – in a conversation which the FBI surveillance obtained (pages 13-15 of the complaint) it is clear YE and LIN are knowledgeable as to the illegality of their efforts.
YE Jian – PRC National and employee of Kings Nower Seed (per visa application) – involved over the course of the summer of 2012 in the collection of seed from farms located in the Northern Indiana, Illinois, Iowa farmland – In a conversation which the FBI surveillance obtained (pages 13-15 of the complaint) it is clear YE and LIN are knowledgeable as to the illegality of their efforts.[/cs_text][cs_text]
[x_gap size=”5.313em”][x_feature_headline type=”left” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h2″ icon=”500px”]The takeaway[/x_feature_headline]
The takeaway for all companies – have a security plan, educate your employees and contractors. Operate from a position of trust, have in place the capabilities to verify the trust if suspicion arises. Conduct strategic competitive analysis so you may be aware of what areas of research your competition is engaged? Reward employees for reporting anomalies. When implementing protections, explain to your employees, contractors and vendors the why behind your intellectual property protection regimes, and never allow convenience to trump security.[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][/cs_content]