The U.S. government is investigating whether it made tens of millions of dollars in duplicate payments to fund laboratory projects in Wuhan, China, according to CBS News.
News of the probe comes as U.S. agencies have more openly discussed the possibility that the COVID-19 pandemic originated with a lab mishap in Wuhan, where labs have received grant funds from the U.S. government.
The potential overpayments were routed to Wuhan labs through the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), CBS reported. They were uncovered by a federal investigator, Diane Cutler, while combing through more than 50,000 documents.
Cutler said her review turned up possible duplicate payments for medical supplies, equipment, travel and salaries.
“What I’ve found so far is evidence that points to double billing, potential theft of government funds. It is concerning, especially since it involves dangerous pathogens and risky research,” said Cutler, who has over 20 years’ experience with government investigations, according to her LinkedIn.
Anonymous sources told CBS that the duplicate payments could total tens of millions of dollars. Other anonymous sources familiar with the grant records did not dispute the story, CBS reported.
Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS), who Cutler works for, turned her records over to USAID, which launched an investigation, according to CBS.
NIH did not comment to CBS. A spokesman for the USAID inspector general declined to comment “on the existence of a specific open investigation,” CBS reported.
Anonymous sources told CBS that the investigation could take at least six months to wrap up.
Marshall said he thinks there are “1.1 million reasons that American taxpayers should care” about the potential overpayments and called for a 9/11 Commission-style investigation into the situation, according to CBS.
“You’ll have a plane crashes. We want to find out why the plane crashes. We go to any lengths to do that. And the hope is we don’t have another plane crash for the same reason,” he said.
Two U.S. agencies – the FBI and Energy Department – have recently disclosed their conclusions that a Chinese lab accident is the most likely source of COVID-19, not animal-to-human transmission. Intelligence agencies are split on the issue, but agree that the virus was not deliberately unleashed by China, according to a 2021 DNI report.