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Harvard University professor indicted for lying to federal officials about involvement with Wuhan University in China

Wuhan University Zhongnan Hospital (Zhangmoon618/WikiCommons)

The former chairman of Harvard University’s Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department was indicted on Tuesday, accused of being involved with Wuhan University of Technology in China in a recruiting program which is known to steal proprietary information from businesses.

Charles Lieber, 61, was indicted by a federal grand jury on two counts of making false statements to federal authorities regarding his participation in China’s Thousand Talents Program, according to a statement from U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling.

As the head of Lieber Research Group at Harvard, which specialized in nanoscience, he received more than $15 million in research grants from the federal National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense. As a condition of receiving the grants all sources of research support, potential financial conflicts of interest and all foreign collaboration must be reported, the statement said.

In 2011 Lieber became a strategic scientist at Wuhan University of Technology and became a contractual participant in China’s Thousand Talents Plan which recruited high-level scientific talent. Along with bringing the scientist to China to share their knowledge and experience, the program also allegedly awards individuals for stealing proprietary information, the statement said.

Lieber is accused of receiving a salary of up to $50,000 monthly and living expenses of up to $158,000 and lying to federal authorities in 2018 and 2019 about his involvement in the Thousand Talents Plan, according to the statement.

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“It is alleged that Lieber falsely stated that he was never asked to participate in the Thousand Talents Program, but that he ‘wasn’t sure’ how China categorized him. In November 2018, NIH inquired of Harvard about whether Lieber had failed to disclose his then-suspected relationship with WUT and China’s Thousand Talents Plan. Lieber allegedly caused Harvard to falsely tell NIH that Lieber ‘had no formal association with WUT’ after 2012,” the statement said.

If found guilty, he could face up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000, according to the statement.

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