The US is pursuing charges against Harvard University's Charles Lieber because of the amount of funding he allegedly received from the Chinese government and the false statements he allegedly made about that funding, ScienceInsider reports. Andrew Lelling, the US attorney for the Massachusetts district, tells it this ensnared Lieber in a situation where he might have been vulnerable in the future to pressure from China to do what it asked.
As the New York Times reported last week, Lieber, who works on nanoscale electronics, was arrested for lying about his involvement in China's Thousand Talents Program to the Department of Defense and mischaracterizing his role at Wuhan University of Technology. According to ScienceInsider, Lieber allegedly received a salary of about $50,000 and research support totalling millions of dollars from China.
This arrest stems from a crackdown in the US on foreign influence on research. The US National Institutes of Health last year sent letters to a number of institutions to ask about researchers' potentially undisclosed ties to foreign governments, which led to dismissals or resignations at numerous institutions, including MD Anderson Cancer Center, Emory University, and the Moffitt Cancer Center, for failing to disclose outside funding.
Lelling tells ScienceInsider that Lieber's stature was not a "deciding factor" in the pursuit of criminal charges. "It was the amount of money involved that drew our attention," he adds. "That is a corrupting level of money."