Mar 8, 2017

Canadian government scientist who smuggled bacteria in carry-on luggage gets prison time

​(Source:)... Nielsen's arrest followed an 18-month undercover RCMP investigation and came nearly two years after he and his business partner had been fired by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Yu is still wanted by police.

Nielsen argued his actions were altruistic and single-handedly helped lower the cost of test kits for developing countries, where the disease is still prevalent, driving the price down to 50 cents from 85 cents and cutting heavily into the normal 90 per cent markup of the kits.

The prosecution conceded there was no evidence Nielsen personally profited from the sale of the test kits, which he and his partner began to market after creating their own company, Peace River Biotechnology Company, in 2006.

In sentencing the 72-year-old Nielsen, Ontario Court Justice Heather Perkins-McVey called it a "tragic case of an extraordinary man, a scientist who made decisions in his conduct that breached the trust of his employer of 30 years, and acted contrary to the public good."

Perkins-McVey noted there were acts of dishonesty toward his employer, including the use of coded language in five years worth of emails, that suggested a degree of planning and sophistication. And while there was no evidence of bribery of international officials on behalf of Nielsen, there were indications that his business partner may have tried.

"The motive was to promote the use of Chinese test kits, which would have had the effect of diverting customers away from using the Canadian product," said Perkins-McVey. "Both Dr. Nielsen and the co-accused used government property to start their own business. As a public servant, he was entrusted with advancing the public good."

Nielsen's actions "shook the confidence" of the country's international relationships when it comes to patents, the judge said.

"As a result of the accused and Ms. Yu's (alleged) actions, it may be perceived that working with CFIA comes with a risk, that Canada cannot protect their international property," the judge said.