A Harvard professor was convicted Tuesday of lying about his involvement in a Chinese recruitment program as part of the Justice Department's controversial effort to crackdown on Chinese influence in US research. Jurors convicted nanoscientist Charles Lieber, a former chair of Harvard's chemistry department, of two counts of filing false tax returns, two counts of making false statements, and two counts of failing to file reports for a foreign bank account in China after a six-day trial in Boston, per the AP. Prosecutors said Lieber joined China's Wuhan University of Technology as a strategic scientist, agreeing to publish articles and apply for patents on the university's behalf, while on a quest for a Nobel Prize in 2011, per Reuters.
Through the school, 62-year-old Lieber participated in the Thousand Talents Program, which recruits foreign researchers to share their knowledge with China. The problem wasn't his involvement but the fact that he lied about it when pressed by the Defense Department and the National Institutes of Health, which had awarded him $15 million in research grants and required foreign ties to be disclosed, per the BBC. He also concealed his income out of China, which prosecutors said included $50,000 per month from WUT, up to $158,000 in living expenses, and more than $1.5 million to establish a nanoscience research lab at the university—all reportedly paid to an undisclosed Chinese bank account.
Patrick Hegarty of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service said Lieber "eroded the trust the DoD has in its researchers to prioritize the United States and its service members over foreign governments, and over personal financial gain," per CNN. "We respect the verdict and will keep up the fight," defense lawyer Marc Mukasey responded, per Reuters. He'd earlier argued prosecutors lacked the documentation to prove Lieber lied and relied too heavily on a "confused" interview with the professor after his January 2020 arrest. Lieber, a cancer patient, has been on paid leave from Harvard ever since. He now faces up to 26 years in prison and $1.2 million in fines at sentencing, per the Harvard Crimson. (Read more China stories.)