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A Harvard University's Professor faces new tax charges linked to a Chinese school

14:16 | 30/07/2020

After being arrested in January, chemistry professor Charles Lieber of Harvard University is facing up to new tax charges tied to a Chinese school. 

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Charges of failing to report income from a Chinese university

According to ABC News, chemistry professor Charles Lieber, 61, was indicted by a grand jury on two counts of failing to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts and two counts of making and subscribing a false income tax return, the office of U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said in a statement Tuesday. Lieber is accused of failing to report income from Wuhan University of Technology.

The US Department of Justice said Charles Lieber, the former chairman of Harvard’s chemistry department and a prominent American scientist, had failed to report income he allegedly received from Wuhan University of Technology (WUT), SCMP reported.

a harvard universitys professor faces new tax charges linked to a chinese school
Harvard professor Charles Lieber (pictured in January) now faces tax charges. Photo: Reuters

He was charged in a superseding indictment on Tuesday with two counts of making and subscribing a false income tax return, two counts of failing to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts (FBAR) with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and two counts of making false statements.

Hiding his involvement in China’s Thousand Talents Plan

Lieber, the former chair of the department of chemistry and chemical biology, was arrested in January on allegations that he hid his involvement in China’s Thousand Talents Plan, a program designed to recruit people with knowledge of foreign technology and intellectual property to China, Associated Press reported.

He was indicted this month by a federal grand jury on two counts of making false statements to authorities, a charge that calls for up to five years in prison if he is convicted.

Lieber’s lawyer, Marc Mukasey, said in an email last week that “the government has this wrong” and that “when justice is done, Charlie’s good name will be restored.”

a harvard universitys professor faces new tax charges linked to a chinese school
Chinese and other international students wave flags at a Columbia University commencement ceremony last year. Photo: Xinhua

Pleading not guilty to hiding ties to China

According to CBS Boston, professor Charles Lieber pleaded not guilty Tuesday to lying about his ties to a Chinese-run recruitment program.

Charles Lieber appeared via videoconference before a federal court magistrate judge in Boston because of the coronavirus pandemic. He didn’t speak, other than to answer questions from the judge and enter his not guilty plea. His attorney also disputed the allegations.

“The notion that Professor Lieber was engaged in improper work with China is laughable,” Marc Mukasey said in an email to The Boston Globe. “He didn’t hide anything, and he didn’t get paid as the government alleges. ... He is innocent and his name will be cleared.”, he said.

a harvard universitys professor faces new tax charges linked to a chinese school
A view of Havard Yard on the campus of Havard University. Photo: AFP.

The latest move in Lieber’s criminal case comes as the Justice Department has moved to prosecute multiple researchers in recent weeks for allegedly hiding their ties to the Chinese government and military.

According to the Justice Department, Lieber had received more than US$15 million in federal research grants between 2008 and 2019 while at Harvard, but did not tell his university that he had also become a “strategic scientist” at WUT or a contractual participant in Beijing’s Thousand Talents Plan, a programme to recruit foreign scientists to China.

He was allegedly paid up to $50,000 per month from WUT, received living expenses of up to US$150,000 from the university, and was awarded more than US$1.5 million to establish a research lab there.

The superseding indictment alleges that Lieber did not disclose his income from WUT on his federal income tax returns.

He is also accused of opening a Chinese bank account with WUT officials, to which the university deposited some of his salary. According to the Justice Department, he did not report that bank account to the IRS, despite a legal requirement to do so.

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