A jury found prominent Harvard chemistry and engineering professor Charles Lieber guilty of lying to federal investigators regarding his reception of Chinese funding for research projects.
The Justice Department accused Lieber, a nanoscience specialist, in January 2020 of concealing his involvement with China’s “thousand talents” program, a government-funded initiative meant to foster scientific research. On Tuesday the jury in his trial found Lieber guilty of all six resulting charges, including two counts each of making false statements to investigators, failure to report a foreign bank account, and filing a false tax return.
Lieber’s defense team maintained that the professor’s actions were careless and not criminal in nature.
“If there was a Nobel Prize for inventing something out of nothing, the government’s case would win it,” Lieber’s lawyer Marc Mukasey told jurors.
Video recordings of meetings with investigators showed Lieber explaining that he was paid in cash in China and held a bank account with over $200,000, although he did not end up using the money because he “didn’t believe it was the right thing.” Prosecutors displayed evidence that Lieber signed a thousand talents agreement with the Wuhan University of Technology, and received up to $50,000 a month in salary.
Under the Trump administration, the Justice Department began a number of investigations into scientists receiving funding while working at American college campuses.
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