Stuttgart Scientist Accused of Industrial Espionage

Two Chinese agricultural scientists, including one living in Stuttgart, have been charged in federal court in Kansas with stealing seeds from an unidentified company's research facility.

The criminal complaint filed in Kansas City, Kan., alleges that Weiqiang Zhang, 47, of Manhattan, Kan., and Wengui Yan, 63, of Stuttgart, provided stolen seed to a Chinese delegation that visited the Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center in Stuttgart and other agricultural facilities a few months ago.

Yan made an initial appearance Thursday in federal court in Little Rock. He has a detention hearing scheduled for 3 p.m. Friday.

More: Click here (PDF) to download the criminal complaint.

Both Zhang and Yan are Chinese nationals. Yan worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture at the Bumpers Research Center while Zhang was a seed breeder for the victim, identified as "Company A."

According to a news release issued by U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom of Kansas, stolen seeds were found by U.S. Customs & Border Protection agents on Aug. 7 as the delegation prepared to board a plan to return to China. Zhang and Yan had arranged for the visit, which lasted from July 16 to Aug. 7, and seeds similar to those found by Customs were found in Zhang's residence in Kansas on Dec. 11.

The delegation visited the Bumpers center on July 22, when Yan picked the visitors up from a motel in Stuttgart. The news release did not otherwise connect Yan to the stolen seeds and the criminal complaint was not immediately available.