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US Justice Department drops case against MIT professor accused of China ties

MIT Professor China
Posted at 12:46 PM, Jan 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-20 12:46:36-05

The Justice Department says it has dropped its case against a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor charged last year with hiding work he did for the Chinese government.

The department said in a filing Thursday in federal court in Boston that it could no longer meet its burden of proof at trial in the case against Gang Chen.

Chen was accused last year of concealing ties to Beijing while also collecting U.S. dollars for his nanotechnology research. His lawyers have said he did nothing wrong.

As MIT's Technology Review reported, Chen maintained that he was innocent and said that the funding he collected was for the university he worked for and not himself.

Rachael Rollins, a U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts said in a statement, "We recently obtained additional information pertaining to the materiality of Professor Chen’s alleged omissions in the context of the grant review process at issue in this case. After a careful assessment of this new information in the context of all the evidence, our office has concluded that we can no longer meet our burden of proof at trial.”

Chen’s defense attorney Robert Fisher said, "Our defense was never based on any legal technicalities. Gang did not commit any of the offenses he was charged with. Full stop. He was never in a talent program. He was never an overseas scientist for Beijing. He disclosed everything that he was supposed to disclose and never lied to the government or anyone else.”

MIT called Chen one of the most high-profile scientists who was charged under a U.S. Justice Department program named the "China Initiative." The program is said to focus on research integrity issues and prosecuting academics for those alleged crimes.