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Prosecutors drop charges against Gang Chen, MIT professor accused of hiding ties to China

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Jiaqian AirplaneFan/WikiCommons)
January 21, 2022

Federal prosecutors on Thursday dropped charges against Gang Chen, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who had faced accusations of using federal grant money to benefit China, all while hiding ties to the Chinese government.

Chen, 56, was arrested a year ago for failing to disclose millions of dollars in contracts, appointments and awards from the Chinese government when he applied for a grant from the Department of Energy. Among other charges, he was accused of wire fraud and making a false statement on a tax return, according to prosecutors. He pleaded not guilty to the full slate of charges.

On Thursday, U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins said the federal government would drop its case against Chen. After assessing new evidence, Rollins said in a statement her office found it could not meet the burden of proof in a trial.

“As prosecutors, we have an obligation in every matter we pursue to continually examine the facts while being open to receiving and uncovering new information,” Rollins said. “Today’s dismissal is a result of that process and is in the interests of justice.”

Born in China, Chen is a naturalized United States citizen. Since 2012, authorities had claimed, Chen held various appointments with China designed to promote the government’s interests by providing his expertise, sometimes directly to Chinese authorities.

Much of the professor’s research at MIT was funded by more than $19 million in grants awarded by U.S. federal agencies. Prosecutors had claimed Chen used the U.S. government’s money to benefit the Chinese government, while failing to disclose any relationship with Chinese leaders.

Colleagues protested Chen’s arrest, saying grant disclosure violations had been treated as a serious crime, such as espionage or intellectual property theft, the New York Times reported. Recently, Department of Energy officials said they would awarded a grant to him even if he had disclosed his ties to China.


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