A former Harvard University chemistry professor was found guilty Tuesday of lying about his ties to China and not reporting income paid to him by a Chinese-run recruitment program.
Charles Lieber, 62, the former chairman of the Ivy League school’s Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department, was convicted in Boston federal court of two counts of making false statements, two counts of filing a false income tax return, and two counts of failing to report income from foreign bank and financial accounts.
Without Harvard’s knowledge, Lieber became a “strategic scientist” for the Wuhan Institute of Technology in central China and participated in Beijing’s Thousand Talents Program from 2012 to 2015.
The program was designed to recruit people with high-level knowledge of foreign technology and intellectual property to China.
As part of the recruitment program, the Wuhan institute paid Lieber $50,000 a month and living expenses of up to $150,000, as well as giving him more than $1.5 million to establish a research lab.
Lieber’s research group at Harvard University also received more than $15 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Defense Department, but he did not disclose his ties to China during the grant application process.
The professor also lied to the Internal Revenue Service about the money he was paid by Beijing.
“There is now no question that Charles Lieber lied to federal investigators and to Harvard in an attempt to hide his participation in the Chinese Thousand Talents Program,” acting Boston US Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell said in a statement.
“He lied to the IRS about the money he was paid, and he concealed his Chinese bank account from the United States. The jury followed the evidence and the law to a just verdict,” Mendell added.
Lieber was convicted after a six-day jury trial that was followed by two hours and 45 minutes of deliberations. His lawyer, Marc Mukasey, argued that federal prosecutors lacked proof because investigators failed to keep records of interviews with Lieber before he was arrested.
Mukasey also claimed prosecutors couldn’t prove that Lieber acted “knowingly, intentionally, or willfully, or that he made any material false statement.”
Lieber has been on paid administrative leave from Harvard since being arrested in January 2020. A sentencing date has yet to be determined.