World

Charged with smuggling in U.S., ex-Winnipeg researcher cops a plea

A former researcher at the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg accused of trying to smuggle genetic material from the Ebola virus across the Manitoba-North Dakota border pleaded guilty to a lesser charge on Friday.

A former researcher at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg accused of trying to smuggle genetic material from the Ebola virus across the Manitoba-North Dakota border pleaded guilty to a lesser charge on Friday.

Konan Michel Yao, 42, pleaded guilty in a Grand Forks, N.D. courtroom to a charge of "failure to present merchandise for inspection."

He was sentenced to 17 days in jail but received credit for time already served. He was also fined $500 US.

Yao is currently in the custody of U.S. customs officials. It's unclear whether he will be coming back to Canada.

Yao was caught at the Manitoba-North Dakota border on May 5 on his way to a new job with the National Institutes of Health at the Biodefense Research Laboratory in Bethesda, Md. He had 22 vials in the trunk of his car that were allegedly taken from the lab.

Yao had initially been hired by the Public Health Agency of Canada to work as a PhD fellow at the Winnipeg facility.

The agency said there was never a public health risk, insisting Yao did not have access to the highest-level pathogens and only worked with non-infectious material.