On December 21, 2021, a jury found Harvard Professor Charles Lieber guilty of misrepresenting his relationship with China. The U.S. Department of Justice Press Release, in part, states:
“We expect professors like Dr. Lieber who are privileged to
be part of taxpayer-funded research to be honest in their actions,” said Philip
M. Coyne, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services, Office of Inspector General. “Today’s conviction demonstrates OIG’s
commitment to ensuring that taxpayer dollars are not wasted, and that those
handling these funds are truthful in their dealings with federal agencies.” . .
Lieber served as the Principal Investigator of the Lieber
Research Group at Harvard University, which received more than $15 million in federal
research grants between 2008 and 2019. Unbeknownst to his employer, Harvard
University, Lieber became a “Strategic Scientist” at [the Wuhan University of
Technology in Wuhan, China] WUT and, later, a contractual participant in
China’s Thousand Talents Plan from at least 2012 through 2015. China’s Thousand
Talents Plan is one of the most prominent Chinese talent recruitment plans
designed to attract, recruit and cultivate high-level scientific talent in
furtherance of China’s scientific development, economic prosperity and national
Under the terms of Lieber’s three-year Thousand Talents
contract, WUT paid Lieber a salary of up to $50,000 per month, living expenses
of up to $150,000 and awarded him more than $1.5 million to establish a
research lab at WUT. In 2018 and 2019, Lieber lied to federal authorities about
his involvement in the Thousand Talents Plan and his affiliation with WUT.
In tax years 2013 and 2014, Lieber earned income from WUT in
the form of salary and other payments made to him pursuant to the Strategic
Scientist and Thousand Talents Contracts, which he did not disclose to the IRS
on his federal income tax returns. Lieber, together with WUT officials, opened
a bank account at a Chinese bank during a trip to Wuhan in 2012.
Thereafter, between at least 2013 and 2015, WUT periodically deposited portions
of Lieber’s salary into that account. U.S. taxpayers are required to report the
existence of any foreign bank account that holds more than $10,000 at any time
during a given year by the filing an FBAR with the IRS. Lieber failed to file
FBARs for the years 2014 and 2015.
The charge of making false statements provides for a sentence
of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of
$250,000. The charge of making and subscribing false income tax returns provides
for a sentence of up to three years in prison, one year of supervised release
and a $100,000 fine. The charge of failing to file an FBAR provides for a
sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a
fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based
upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.