Harvard official sentenced for lying about ties to Chinese Community Party

Harvard official sentenced for lying about ties to Chinese Community Party
Harvard University

The former head of Harvard’s chemistry department was sentenced on April 26 to time served plus two years of supervised release for tax fraud and failure to disclose his involvement in the biochemical research efforts of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Charles Lieber will serve the first half year of his sentence under house arrest. Lieber is also required to pay a $50,000 fine and $33,600 in restitution to the IRS.

Lieber was arrested and charged with fraud two years ago after being caught lying to both the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Defense Department about his ties to the China’s communist regime.

During his time at Harvard, Lieber got over $15 million in research grants from both the NIH and DOD. Such grants require applicants to disclose their foreign ties. Lieber concealed the fact that he participated in the Thousand Talents Program (TTP), a Chinese Communist Party initiative to recruit scientists across the world, from 2012 to 2017.

When it indicted Lieber, the Justice Department said Lieber received $50,000 in monthly income, $158,000 in living expenses, and a $1.5 million award from the CCP to establish a research laboratory at the Wuhan University of Technology (WUT) in China.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office ecommended that Lieber be sentenced to 90 days in prison and a year of supervised release as well as more than $180,000 in fines, according to the Harvard Crimson.

Prosecutors argued that the long-term nature of Lieber’s deception warranted jail time, noting that he “purposely — and repeatedly — lied to government agents about his ties to WUT and TTP in response to direct, unambiguous questions; and he purposely concealed from tax authorities the hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to him by WUT.”

“They were not the product of a single misguided act or one rash decision,” they said, “but rather a concerted and sustained effort over a period of years to downplay his relationship with WUT, cover up completely his affiliation with the [TTP], and secretly line his own pockets.”

Lieber’s defense attorney pleaded with the court to pursue a lesser sentence due to his client’s weakened immune system as a result of his ten-year battle with lymphoma, according to Chemical and Engineering News.

Prior to sentencing, Lieber claimed to be remorseful. “The last three-plus years have been a truly horrific experience for me and my wife and my children, and I regret the things that brought me here,” he said. “As you have heard, I have lost my job, my career, and my freedom — and I sincerely hope I will not lose what is left of my life given my poor health.”

Lieber’s sentencing comes as congressional Republicans have clamored for the Biden administration to resume Trump-era investigations into foreign government influence in American colleges and universities. Congresswoman Virginia Foxx said, “The CCP has pumped billions of dollars into America’s colleges and universities—with little to no oversight…yet the Biden administration continues to sit on its hands while the CCP’s influence permeates deeper into American postsecondary education and society.”

LU Staff

LU Staff

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