A Harvard University professor accused of lying about his ties to a Chinese-run recruitment program “is the victim” in the case, “not the perpetrator," his lawyer said Tuesday, after authorities announced his indictment on charges of making false statements.
Charles Lieber, the former chair of the department of chemistry and chemical biology, was arrested in January on allegations that he hid his involvement in China’s Thousand Talents Plan, a program designed to recruit people with knowledge of foreign technology and intellectual property to China.
Lieber has been indicted by a federal grand jury on two counts of making false statements to authorities — a charge that calls for up to five years in prison if he's convicted, authorities said. Prosecutors say he will be arraigned in federal court at a later date.
Lieber's lawyer, Marc Mukasey, said in an email that “the government has this wrong.” The attorney said Lieber has dedicated his life to science and his students.
“He is the victim in this case, not the perpetrator,” Mukasey said. “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."
Authorities say Lieber, 61, was paid $50,000 a month by the Wuhan University of Technology in China under his Thousand Talents Program contract and awarded more than $1.5 million to establish a research lab at the Chinese university.
In exchange, prosecutors say, Lieber agreed to apply for patents and do other work on behalf of the Chinese university.
Authorities say Lieber lied about ties to the program and the university, telling federal authorities that he was never asked to participate in the Thousand Talents Plan. When the National Institutes of Health questioned Harvard about Lieber, the professor caused the school to falsely report that Lieber “is not and has never been a participant in” China’s Thousand Talents Plan, prosecutors said.
Harvard said in January that Lieber had been placed on administrative leave.