ST. LOUIS (CN) – A Chinese national pleaded not guilty Monday to federal charges that he stole trade secrets from Monsanto, which prosecutors say is part of a pattern of Beijing encouraging the theft of U.S. intellectual property.
Haitao Xiang, 42, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge John M. Bodenhausen in St. Louis. He wore a jail-issued green and white jumpsuit and was cuffed at the wrists and legs.
His attorney, Eric M. Selig of Rosenblum Schwartz in Clayton, Mo., had no comment for reporters after leaving the courtroom.
Xiang was arrested in June 2017 at a U.S. airport with a one-way ticket to China and was in possession of software developed by Monsanto to help farmers improve crop yields, the Department of Justice said last week in an announcement about the espionage charges.
The Chinese national had worked at Monsanto and its subsidiary, The Climate Corporation, for nearly 10 years beginning in 2008.
He is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit economic espionage, three counts of economic espionage, one count of conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets and three counts of theft of trade secrets. Xiang is currently being held in the Randolph County, Missouri jail.
Assistant Attorney General John Demers said in a statement that the indictment alleges another instance of the Chinese government encouraging “employees to steal intellectual property from their U.S. employers.”
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, meanwhile, said the U.S. government is trying to use the case to back its accusations that China steals technology from American companies.
“We resolutely oppose the U.S. side’s attempts to use the case, which we regard as an ordinary, isolated incident, to hype up claims of China’s organized and systematic attempts to steal intellectual property from the US,” Geng said at a regular briefing Friday, according to an Agence France-Presse report.
Xiang faces up to 15 years in jail and a $5 million fine for each of the three counts of espionage against him, and 10 years in jail and $250,000 in fines on the other counts.
Selig said during Monday’s arraignment that he plans to file a complex case motion for discovery. Bodenhausen said he will likely accept it, pushing any further hearing dates to early next year.