Harvard don, accused of lying about China ties, faces tax charges

BOSTON • US prosecutors have brought tax charges against a Harvard University professor accused of lying to the 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 the Wuhan University of Technology in China.

The case centres on China's Thousand Talents Programme, which the United States 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 Programme.

Under his contract, Lieber was paid up to US$50,000 (S$68,800) a month and living expenses of up to US$158,000, prosecutors said. He was also awarded more than US$1.5 million 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.

The four tax-related counts are in addition to two counts of making false statements to the federal authorities that Lieber, 61, pleaded not guilty to last month.

Meanwhile, US federal agencies are investigating suspicious and unsolicited packages of seeds that have been arriving at addresses across America and appear to come from China.

Anyone who receives the shipments should hold on to the seeds and packaging and immediately contact officials, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said in a statement. The authorities in Canada also said there have been reports of its citizens receiving unsolicited seed packages, echoing the USDA's warning not to plant them.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2020, with the headline 'Harvard don, accused of lying about China ties, faces tax charges'. Subscribe