A 42-year-old Canadian scientist has been arrested for smuggling 22 vials stolen from Canada's National Microbiology Lab, used in Ebola and HIV research, into the United States, officials from both countries said Wednesday.
Konan Michel Yao was arrested while crossing from Manitoba province into North Dakota on May 5, a spokeswoman for the Public Health Agency of Canada, which operates the lab, Agence France-Presse reported. U.S. prosecutor Lynn Jordheim said Yao was carrying the unidentified materials in aluminum foil inside a glove and packaged in a plastic bag in the trunk of his car when he was detained. Yao said he had stolen the vials on his last day of work on Jan. 21 and was taking them to his new job with the U.S. National Institutes of Health at the Biodefense Research Laboratory in Bethesda, Md., AFP reported.
"This turned out not to be a terrorism-related case," Jordheim told AFP. "It appears to be exactly as he said. However, he still faces possible charges for smuggling the vials into the United States."
A Canadian health agency spokesperson said the Ivory Coast-born Yao worked on vaccines for the Ebola virus and HIV, but only had access to harmless and non-infectious materials, according to AFP. U.S. authorities tested the contents of Yao's packages and determined they were not hazardous