A prominent Harvard professor and neuroscientiat of note has been convicted by federal jury in Boston for hiding ties to China under the US government's initiative to root out Chinese ties in its research wings. Charles Lieber was pronounced guilty of filing false income tax returns and hiding the fact that he had a Chinese bank account.
Prosecutors alleged that Lieber, in his quest for a Nobel Prize, in 2011 agreed to become a "strategic scientist" at Wuhan University of Technology in China and through it participated in a Chinese recruitment drive called the Thousand Talents Program.
They also alleged that the programme itself was not illegal but that Lieber had lied to authorities about his true connections to it and that China had recruited US scientists to share their knowledge with them. Lieber had lived to the US Defense Department and the US National Institutes of Health, which had awarded him $15 million in research grants.
During the investigation Lieber, now battling cancer, had confessed that he was young and in pursuit of glory when the Wuhan University had offered him $50,000 per month plus $158,000 in living expenses and that at one point his bank account contained over $200,000.
but prosecutors said the Tennessee professor had failed to report his salary on his 2013 and 2014 income tax returns and for two years failed to report the bank account. However Lieber's lawyer contended that the prosecution had botched the investigation and also relied mainly on one "confused" interview held after his arrest in 2020.
Lieber was charged in January 2020 as part of the US Department of Justice's "China Initiative," which launched during former President Donald Trump's administration to counter suspected Chinese economic espionage and research theft. President Joe Biden's administration has continued the initiative, though the Justice Department has said it is reviewing its approach.
Critics of the China Initiative say it racially profiles Chinese -American scientists while also terrorising researchers and preventing genuine scientific collaboration. One scientists was acquitted after a mistrial earlier this year and 6 others had charges dropped against them. Lieber's lawyers have announced their intention to appeal.