Wednesday, May 18, 2022

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Harvard Prof nailed for China ties

A Harvard University professor, Charles Lieber, has been convicted of hiding ties to a China-run recruitment programme.

Prof Lieber was found guilty by US authorities of making false statements to authorities, filing false tax returns and failing to report a Chinese bank account. His sentencing date is yet to be decided.

The 62-year-old was charged in 2020 as part of a US campaign to counter economic espionage from China.

Prosecutors in Boston said Lieber knowingly hid his involvement in China’s “Thousand Talents Plan”, which aims to attract foreign research specialists – a move which has been flagged by the US as a security concern in the past, BBC writes.

Lieber, a former head of Harvard’s department of chemistry and chemical biology, had in 2011 joined China’s Wuhan University of Technology as a scientist.

He was given a monthly salary of $50,000 (£37,000), in addition to living expenses of up to $158,000 for this role.

The filings say he was also given more than $1.5m to establish a research lab at the university and, in return, was expected to work for the university, applying for patents and publishing articles in its name.

While participation in the programme is not a crime, prosecutors said Lieber had lied to authorities about his affiliation with the university in Wuhan, and failed to declare income earned in China.

He had previously been awarded $15m in grants from the US National Institute of Health and the US Department of Defence.

Recipients of these grants have to disclose any conflicts of interest, including financial support from foreign governments or organisations.

Lieber’s defence team said prosecutors lacked proof of the charges, saying they were unable to show that Lieber had acted knowingly, intentionally, or wilfully, or that he made any material false statement.

Lieber, who has been diagnosed with cancer, had pleaded not guilty.

According to the Harvard Crimson, the maximum sentence for the conviction is 26 years in jail and $1.2m in fines.

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