Federal prosecutors investigating the theft of genetically modified corn seed in Iowa dropped charges against a Chinese woman accused of conspiracy after a judge said her instant messages couldn’t be used as evidence at trial.
The seeds, worth tens of millions of dollars to Monsanto Co. and DuPont Co., were stolen from test fields by other conspirators who then attempted to ship them in plastic bags from Illinois to Hong Kong, the U.S. claims.
The charges against Mo Yun, including conspiracy to steal trade secrets, were dismissed Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Stephanie M. Rose in Des Moines, Iowa, at the government’s request. She ordered Yun’s passport returned.
“Our client is the mother of two small children in Beijing and she hasn’t seen them in over a year, so she is anxious to get home,” said Yun’s lawyer, Terry Bird. She would have been exonerated even if the case had gone to trial, he said.
Yun became the seventh person accused in the case when she was charged a year ago. She’s married to Shao Genhuou, chairman of Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group Co., and is the sister of Mo Hailong, an employee of the Chinese company who was indicted with five others in December 2013.
The judge said the computer messages from 2007 and 2008 were too old to be used at trial and that they included inconsistencies after being cut and pasted from an earlier file.
Prosecutors declined to comment on the case.
The U.S. alleges the defendants conspired from 2007 to 2013 to steal inbred corn seed from production fields to benefit Kings Nower Seed, a unit of the Chinese company.
Inbred lines, developed by scientists to have a particular trait such as resistance to herbicides, are crossbred with other lines to develop hybrid seeds, the U.S. said.
The case is U.S. v. Shaoming, 13-cr-00147, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Iowa (Des Moines).