Federal prosecutors are recommending dropping charges against a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who was accused last year of hiding his work for the Chinese government while raising US dollars for his nanotechnology research, a person familiar with the decision said person on Friday.
The decision in the Gang Chen case is expected to be finalized by the Justice Department in the coming weeks, according to the person, who was not authorized to discuss the ongoing case and spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press.
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The move comes as the Justice Department nears the completion of an internal review of its investigations and prosecutions of university professors in the United States accused of concealing their ties to China. These investigations are part of the China Initiative, a Justice Department initiative launched during the Trump administration to crack down on Chinese economic espionage and theft of trade secrets. Critics of the effort have urged the Justice Department to end its prosecution of Chinese academics.
At the time of his arrest in January 2021, prosecutors charged Chen with entering into secret contracts while he worked for MIT and on appointments with Chinese entities, including serving as an “overseas expert” for the Chinese government at the request of the People’s Republic consulate China Office in New York.
Prosecutors claimed Chen failed to disclose his ties to China, as is required for federal grant applications. Defense attorneys have maintained that he is innocent of the charges and that there were no material omissions in the motions.
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Prosecutors in Boston dropped the case after new information emerged, including an interview with a senior Energy Department official, according to the person familiar with the case. The decision was reported earlier Friday by the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.
Two of Chen’s attorneys, Robert Fisher and Brian Kelly, declined to comment Friday.
Despite the conviction last month of a Harvard University professor on charges that he concealed his ties to a China-run recruitment program, other high-profile cases have stalled.
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A federal judge, for example, in September dismissed all charges against a University of Tennessee professor accused of covering up his relationship with a Chinese university while receiving research grants from NASA, and the university has since offered to reinstate him.