Harvard professor accused of China ties faces US tax charges

Charles Lieber was charged with failing to report income he received from Wuhan University of Technology in China.

    Charles Lieber leaves federal court after he and two Chinese nationals were charged with lying about their alleged links to the Chinese government, in Boston, Massachusetts, the United States [File: Katherine Taylor/Reuters]
    Charles Lieber leaves federal court after he and two Chinese nationals were charged with lying about their alleged links to the Chinese government, in Boston, Massachusetts, the United States [File: Katherine Taylor/Reuters]

    Prosecutors in the United States brought tax charges on Tuesday against a Harvard University professor accused of lying to authorities about his ties to a China-run recruitment programme 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 US Department  of Justice crackdown on Chinese influence within universities amid concerns about spying and intellectual property theft by the Chinese government.

    The case centres on China's Thousand Talents Program, which US 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.

    Have US-China relations soured to the point of no return? | Inside Story (25:26)

    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 $1.5m to establish a research lab, the prosecutors said.

    In exchange, Lieber agreed to organise 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 US authorities about his involvement in the Thousand Talents Plan and his affiliation with Wuhan University of Technology.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency