Five people, including two scientists who did research for GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), were charged with a scheme to steal trade secrets from the British drugmaker for potential sale in China, according to indictments announced by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia on Wednesday.
The indictments include charges of conspiracy to steal trade secrets of Glaxo medicines, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, theft of trade secrets, and wire fraud.
The stolen information on drugs for cancer and other serious diseases “potentially could be sold for millions of dollars to rival pharmaceutical companies and it would also be useful information for a start-up pharmaceutical company,” the complaint said.
The alleged conspirators established three corporations in China, all using the name Renopharma, to market and sell the stolen information that could be used to reproduce Glaxo products and drugs in development, to competitors in China, according to the complaint.
One of the five, Yu Xue, is a senior-level manager and biotechnology expert at a Glaxo research facility in Pennsylvania with access to a wide array of trade secret information.
She is accused of emailing confidential information related to a dozen or more products to her personal email account and forwarding it to fellow “conspirators and others,” and also downloading a substantial amount of Glaxo intellectual property to pass along as part of the alleged scheme.
A motion aimed at keeping Yu Xue detained that was filed earlier this month said she “stole millions, perhaps billions, of dollars’ worth of trade secret and other confidential information from her employer, GlaxoSmithKline, to resell in China.”
“Ms. Xue denies these allegations. She has pled not guilty and intends to contest these charges vigorously in court,” her attorney Peter Zeidenberg of Arent Fox said in an emailed statement.
The others named were Lucy Xi, a former Glaxo scientist, Tao Li, Yan Mei and Tian Xue, who is Yu Xue’s twin sister. The sister was used to hide proceeds of the crime, according to the complaint.
All were arrested except for Mei, who is being sought by authorities. Tao Li remains in custody, while the other three were released on bail, according to a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office.
The alleged crimes took place between Jan. 1, 2012 and Dec. 28, 2015, the complaint said.
Glaxo could not immediately be reached for comment. The criminal complaint says the company was aware of the investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.