A federal grand jury indicted former Harvard chemistry chair Charles M. Lieber on two counts for making false statements to federal investigators who were examining funding he received from the Chinese government, the Department of Justice announced Tuesday.
Lieber will be arraigned at a later date. The charge of making false statements allows for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000, according to a DOJ press release.
The first count alleges that Lieber purposely told federal investigators in 2018 that he was never asked to participate in the Thousand Talents Program and that he “wasn’t sure” how China categorized him. In fact, representatives of Wuhan University of Technology in China previously asked Lieber to participate in the Thousand Talents Program, and he signed a three-year contract as a One Thousand Talent “high level foreign expert” in 2012, according to charging documents.
The Chinese government established the Thousand Talents Program in 2008, hoping to attract scholars from across the world to contribute to Chinese development. The U.S. government has since said the program poses a danger to national security.
The grand jury also indicted Lieber on a second charge of making false statements for causing Harvard to tell the National Institutes of Health in 2019 that he had never participated in the Thousand Talents Program.
Harvard spokesperson Jason A. Newton wrote in an email that the University is reviewing the indictment.
Lieber’s lawyer, Marc L. Mukasey, wrote in an emailed statement that the government “has this wrong.”
“Professor Lieber has dedicated his life to science and to his students,” Mukasey wrote. “Not money, not fame, just his science and his students. He is the victim in this case, not the perpetrator.”
Mukasey added that his client will be fighting the charges.
“When justice is done, Charlie’s good name will be restored and the scientific community again will be able to benefit from his intellect and passion,” Mukasey wrote.
—Staff writer James S. Bikales can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jamepdx.
—Staff writer Kevin R. Chen can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @kchenx.