Professor Harvard was convicted by a U.S. arbitral tribunal of lying about Chinese relations

BOSTON, Dec. 21 (Reuters) – A Harvard University professor was on Tuesday convicted of lying about his ties to China’s recruitment program in a case that has been closely watched since Chinese influence was suppressed in U.S. research.

A federal jury in Boston has found Charles Lieber, a renowned nanoscientist and former head of Harvard’s chemistry department, guilty of making false statements to authorities, filing false tax returns and failing to report a Chinese bank account.

Prosecutors allege that in pursuit of the 2011 Nobel Prize, Lieber agreed to become a “strategic scientist” at Wuhan University of Technology in China, thereby participating in the Chinese recruitment drive for the Thousand Talents Project.

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Lawyers say China is using the program to share foreign researchers with their country. Prosecutors argued that the participation was not a crime, but that Liber, 62, had lied to authorities investigating his involvement.

Defense attorney Mark Mukesi countered that prosecutors had “changed” the evidence, that there were no key documents to support their claims, and that they relied heavily on the “confusing” FBI interview after the scientist was arrested.

The verdict was announced after nearly three hours of arbitration and six days of trial by Lieber, who is battling cancer.

“We respect the verdict and will continue to fight,” Mukase said.

Liber was indicted in January 2020 as part of a “China initiative” by the US judiciary, which was launched during the administration of former President Donald Trump to prevent suspicions of Chinese economic espionage and plagiarism.

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The administration of President Joe Biden has continued the initiative, although the judiciary has said it will review its approach.

Critics argue This initiative is detrimental to academic research, racially profiling Chinese researchers and intimidating some scientists. A Tennessee professor was acquitted by a judge this year following a misdemeanor trial, and prosecutors dropped charges against six investigators.

In response to inquiries from the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Lieber lied about his role in the Thousand Talents program, which awarded him a $ 15 million research grant.

In an interview with FBI agents following his arrest, Lieber said he was “young and stupid” when he joined Wuhan University, and hoped his cooperation would help boost his recognition.

The school agreed to pay him $ 50,000 and $ 158,000 a month in living expenses, and he was given cash and a deposit in a Chinese bank account, prosecutors said.

Lieber said he received $ 50,000 to $ 100,000 in cash from the FBI and had $ 200,000 in a bank account at one time.

But prosecutors say Lieber failed to report his salary in his 2013 and 2014 income tax accounts and failed to report his bank account for two years.

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Nate Raymond Report in Boston Edited by Bill Berkrod, David Barrio, Aurora Ellis and Sonia Hepinstall

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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