BOSTON (Reuters) – U.S. prosecutors brought tax charges on Tuesday against a Harvard University professor accused of lying to authorities about his ties to a China-run recruitment program and funding he allegedly received from the Chinese government for research.
Charles Lieber, the former chair of Harvard’s chemistry and chemical biology department, was charged in an indictment filed in federal court in Boston with failing to report income he received from Wuhan University of Technology in China.
The four tax-related counts are in addition to two counts of making false statements to federal authorities that Lieber, 61, pleaded not guilty to in June.
Marc Mukasey, his lawyer, said in a statement that Lieber was innocent. “He didn’t hide anything, and he didn’t get paid as the government alleges,” he said.
Lieber’s case is one of the highest-profile to emerge from a U.S. Justice Department crackdown on Chinese influence within universities amid concerns about spying and intellectual property theft by the Chinese government.
The case centers on China’s Thousand Talents Program, which U.S. authorities say China uses to entice overseas Chinese citizens and foreign researchers to share their knowledge with China in exchange for perks including research funding.
Prosecutors said Lieber in 2011 became a “strategic scientist” at Wuhan University of Technology and later contractually participated in the Thousand Talents Program.
Under his contract, Lieber was paid up to $50,000 a month and living expenses of up to $158,000, prosecutors said. He also was awarded more than $1.5 million to establish a research lab, the prosecutors said.
In exchange, Lieber agreed to organize international conferences, publish articles and apply for patents in the university’s name, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors alleged that in 2018 and 2019, Lieber lied to U.S. authorities about his involvement in the Thousand Talents Plan and affiliation with Wuhan University of Technology.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Peter Cooney)