MIT’s Professor Gang Chen has not disclosed his ties to China, as requested by federal grant applications, US officials said.
A Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor was arrested and charged Thursday with covering up work he did for the Chinese government while also receiving US dollars for his nanotechnology research.
Gang Chen, 56, was arrested by federal agents at his Cambridge, Massachusetts home on wire fraud charges, officials said. Officers executed search warrants at his home and his office at the university, said Joseph Bonavolonta, head of the Boston FBI bureau.
While working for MIT, Chen entered into undisclosed contracts and held positions affiliated with the People’s Republic of China (PRC), including as an “overseas expert” for the Chinese government at the request of the PRC consulate office in New York, authorities said. Many of these roles were “expressly intended to promote the scientific and technological objectives of the PRC,” authorities said in court documents.
Chen did not disclose his ties to China, as requested by federal grant applications, authorities said. He and his research group raised about $ 29 million in foreign dollars, including millions from a Chinese government-funded public research university, while securing $ 19 million in grants from U.S. federal agencies for his worked at MIT since 2013, authorities said.
“It is not illegal to collaborate with foreign researchers. It is illegal to lie about it, ”Massachusetts Attorney General Andrew Lelling told reporters.
An email requesting comment was sent to Chen’s attorney.
MIT said it was “deeply distressed” by Chen’s arrest.
“MIT believes that research integrity is a fundamental responsibility and we take concerns about inappropriate influence in US research seriously. Professor Chen is a longtime and well-respected member of the research community, which makes the government’s allegations against him all the more distressing, ”the school said in a statement.
Chen’s arrest comes nearly a year after federal authorities arrested another nanotechnology expert at a prestigious Boston-area university. Charles Lieber, a professor at Harvard University, was accused in January of lying about his links to China’s Thousand Talent Plan, a program designed to attract people with knowledge of foreign technology and intellectual property to China.
Lieber’s attorney denied the allegations, calling the professor “the victim in this case, not the perpetrator.”
The cases are part of a series of lawsuits brought by the US Department of Justice against researchers from US universities accused of concealing their professional relations with Chinese institutions. Dozens of academics working in the United States have been indicted in cases which often accuse them of not disclosing the research grants they received from Chinese universities.