Harvard scientist charged with lying about ties to Chinese university; two Chinese nationals accused of economic espionage

Harvard scientist charged with lying about ties to Chinese university; two Chinese nationals accused of economic espionage
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Federal prosecutors on Tuesday arrested a renowned Harvard University scientist at his office for allegedly lying about his links to a Chinese university.

Charles Lieber, chair of the university’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, is charged with one count of making a materially false, fictitious and fraudulent statement, Massachusetts US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling’s office said. Lieber made his initial appearance in US District Court in Boston, where he was ordered held pending a hearing Thursday.

His lawyer, Peter Lovitt, declined to comment.

Lieber, 60, appeared uncertain where to sit when he was escorted into court Tuesday, his ankles shackled and his wrists cuffed behind his back. He wore a faded navy blue polo shirt tucked into cargo pants and skimmed through a 17-page affidavit detailing the allegations against him. Lovitt said during the hearing that Lieber hadn’t seen the document previously.

Two Chinese nationals were also charged separately. Prosecutors identified them as Yanqing Ye, a lieutenant in China’s People’s Liberation Army, who allegedly acted as “an agent of a foreign government,” and Zaosong Zheng, a former cancer researcher at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, who allegedly smuggled biological research to China. Ye is still in China and Zheng was arrested in December at Logan International Airport.

Lellling declined to comment when asked whether the three defendants’ cases were connected in any way.

He and Joseph R. Bonavolonta, the FBI special agent in charge of the bureau’s Boston office, briefed reporters on the case during a news conference Tuesday.

“Chinese economic espionage and theft is a real and daily occurrence that we must begin to confront,” Lelling said.

His words were echoed by Bonavolonta. “The Chinese government‘s goal … is to replace the United States as the world superpower and it’s breaking the law to get there,” Bonavolonta said, adding that China “wants what we have so they can gain the upper hand.”

Source: Boston Globe

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