by Tyler Hale
Two Chinese researchers were indicted on conspiracy charges Friday after allegedly attempting to steal rice production technology from a research center in Stuttgart and return with it to China.
According to a press release from the office of U.S. Attorney Cody Hiland, Liu Xuejun, 49, and Sun Yue, 36, both of China, were indicted for “conspiracy to steal trade secrets and conspiracy to commit interstate transportation of stolen property.”
A federal grand jury issued the indictments against Liu and Sun for their alleged involvement in the theft of rice seeds developed for the medical field. The rice seeds contain proteins that can be removed from the rice to be used in medicines and other medical products.
“These rice seeds may be small, but the research and investment that went into the science that made them possible is of great value,” Hiland said. “We remain vigilant in our efforts at protecting both intellectual and real property from theft by other nations, and it is our intention to present our case to an Arkansas jury based on the crimes alleged in the indictment.”
Both individuals visited the United States in 2013 as part of a Chinese delegation organized by Weiqiang Zhang, a rice breeder at Ventria Bioscience in Kansas, and Wengui Yan, who worked at the Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center in Stuttgart. After visiting both the Ventria facility and the Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center, Liu and Sun attempted to return to China. U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents discovered stolen rice seeds from both facilities in Liu and Sun’s baggage.
The trip organizers were each convicted of conspiracy to steal trade secrets in a related case in Kansas in 2013. Zhang, 47, was convicted and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment, while Yan, 63, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one year in prison.
Conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release, according to Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 1832.