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Harvard's Ex-Chemistry Department Head Found Guilty Of Concealing Ties With China

Swarajya Staff

Dec 22, 2021, 10:16 AM | Updated 10:16 AM IST


Harvard professor Charles M Lieber was found guilty of lying to government authorities about his ties to China in United States federal court on Tuesday (21 December), concluding a stunning downfall for one of the country’s top chemists.

A federal jury found Lieber guilty on all six felony charges, including two counts of making false statements and four related tax offenses.

US Federal prosecutors said Lieber, 62, chased money and Nobel hopes past the limits of the law by concealing his ties to China’s Thousand Talents Program in misleading statements to investigators and falsely-reported tax returns, reports The Harvard Crimson.

Lieber, who was the chair of Harvard University's Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, is accused of concealing his participation in China’s “thousand talents” programme from officials in the Defense Department and the National Institutes of Health.

Under the Chinese ‘talent plan’, select scientists are provided generous government funding in a bid encourage scientific research. The US government has charged a number of individuals funded by Chinese state-run talent plans with attempting to steal US intellectual property for the Chinese government.

According to the US Justice Department, Lieber lied about his connection with the Chinese programme known as the Thousand Talents Plan, which the US has highlighted as a serious intelligence concern. Lieber is accused of lying about about a lucrative contract he signed with China's Wuhan University of Technology.

Lieber, who runs a Harvard research group focusing on nanoscience, had established a research lab at the Wuhan university without informing Harvard administration.

Under the Chinese scientific talent scheme, Lieber is said to have been paid up to $50,000 a month, in addition to $150,000 per year "for living and personal expenses."

During the same perriod, Lieber was also serve principal investigator on at least six critical U.S. Defense Department research grants, with a cumulative value of more than $8 million. Lieber was also the principal investigator on more than $10 million in grants funded by the National Institutes of Health.

“While association with a Talent Program is not illegal, it can create incentives to steal, violate export controls, or (at a minimum) conflicts of interest,” said John Demers, chief of the national security division at the Justice Department, at a November presentation.

An acclaimed academic, Harvard had bestowed its highest faculty honor on Lieber by naming him a University Professor in 2017.

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