An award winning US Harvard University scientist who reportedly worked on nano-wire-based lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles has been indicted on charges of making false statements to federal authorities regarding his participation in China’s Thousand Talents Program.
Dr. Charles Lieber has been indicted by a federal grand jury on two counts of making false statements and will be arraigned in federal court in Boston, US, at a later date. He was arrested on 28 January.
The Pennsylvania, US-born Lieber has won a host of prizes, published more than 400 peer-reviewed papers and is the principal inventor on more than 50 patents.
Lieber has served as the principal investigator of the Harvard University Lieber Research Group, which received grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Department of Defense (DOD) that required the disclosure of all sources of research support, potential financial conflicts of interest and all foreign collaboration.
However, it is alleged that unbeknownst to Harvard University, beginning in 2011, Lieber became a “Strategic Scientist” at Wuhan University of Technology (WUT) in China.
He later allegedly became a contractual participant in China’s Thousand Talents Plan from at least 2012 through 2015. Under the terms of Lieber’s three-year contract, WUT allegedly paid him up to $50,000 per month, living expenses of around $158,000 and awarded him more than $1.5 million to establish a research laboratory at WUT.
It is alleged that in 2018 and 2019, Lieber lied to federal authorities about his involvement in the Thousand Talents Plan and his affiliation with WUT.
On or about 24 April, 2018, during an interview with federal investigators, it is alleged that Lieber falsely stated that he was never asked to participate in the Thousand Talents Program, but that he “wasn’t sure” how China categorised him.
In November 2018, NIH inquired of Harvard about whether Lieber had failed to disclose his then-suspected relationship with WUT and China’s Thousand Talents Plan. Lieber allegedly caused Harvard to falsely tell NIH that Lieber “had no formal association with WUT” after 2012, that “WUT continued to falsely exaggerate” his involvement with WUT in subsequent years, and that Lieber “is not and has never been a participant in” China’s Thousand Talents Plan.
A United States Department of Justice statement described China’s Thousand Talents Plan as a prominent talent recruitment plan designed to attract, recruit, and cultivate high-level scientific talent in furtherance of China’s scientific development, economic prosperity and national security.
The statement read: “According to court documents, these talent recruitment plans seek to lure Chinese overseas talent and foreign experts to bring their knowledge and experience to China, and they often reward individuals for stealing proprietary information.”