Chinese man pleads guilty for plot to steal US corn secrets

WASHINGTON - A Chinese man charged with conspiracy to steal high-tech U.S. corn seeds pleaded guilty in federal court in Iowa on Wednesday for participating in the theft of the patented seeds with the intention of transporting them to China, court documents show.

Federal authorities began investigating Mo Hailong, 46, for conspiring to steal corn seeds from DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto after DuPont security staff noticed his suspicious activity.

Mo was employed as director of the international business of the Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group Co, Ltd,, a part of Da Bei Nong Group that runs businesses covering seeds, animal feed and livestock.

Company spokesman Chen Zhongheng said he had not been informed about the situation and declined further comment when contacted by Reuters.

Mo's sister, Mo Yun, who was charged with trying to steal patented U.S. seeds in July 2014, is married to the founder and chairman of the Chinese conglomerate.

Mo will be sentenced at a later date. As part of his plea agreement, he will not be sentenced to more than five years in prison.