The Justice Department on Tuesday filed new charges against Harvard University’s chemistry chairman, accusing him of making false statements about his ties to a controversial Chinese talent recruit program.
Charles Lieber was charged earlier this year with failing to disclose those ties to the Defense Department in an alleged scheme to secure more than $18 million in research grants funded by U.S. taxpayers.
On Tuesday, the Justice Department went one step further, saying Mr. Lieber lied to investigators about his involvement with the Thousand Talents Plan.
In an April 2018 interview with federal investigators, Mr. Lieber falsely stated that he was never asked to participate in the Thousand Talents Plan, prosecutors said.
However, Mr. Lieber had a three-year contract with the Thousand Talents Plan from 2012 through 2015, court documents revealed.
The contract yielded him more than $50,000 per month plus living expenses of roughly $158,000 and awarded him more than $1.5 million to build a research lab at a Chinese university, prosecutors said.
The Trump administration has accused the Thousand Talents Plan of being a front to steal U.S. intellectual property and research.
Mr. Lieber’s attorney said the government has it wrong and vowed that his client will be vindicated.
“Professor Lieber has dedicated his life to science and to his students. Not money, not fame, just his science and his students,” attorney Marc Mukasey said in a statement.
“He is the victim in this case, not the perpetrator. But he’s also a fighter — he always has been — so we’re not taking this lying down. We’re fighting back. And 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,” the statement continued.
Mr. Lieber was placed on administrative leave after he was charged earlier this year. The new charge carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.