NEW YORK – Harvard University professor Charles Lieber was granted permission to be released on $1 million cash bail, after he was charged with lying to federal investigators about his role in recruiting people to pass along scientific research to the Chinese government.
While prosecutors said on Tuesday they were worried the longtime chairman of Harvard’s chemistry department might try to flee before his trial, a government lawyer told a Boston magistrate judge Thursday that a bond is sufficient.
At prosecutors’ request, U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler said that Lieber, who’s been put on leave by Harvard, and his wife must get court permission to withdraw more than $20,000 from their bank. She also forbid Lieber from contacting institutions in China, including Peking University, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Wuhan University of Technology.
“There was a significant amount of money paid Mr. Lieber from a foreign country and part of the money was paid in cash,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Tolkoff told Bowler.
Lieber, 60, concealed that he was paid $50,000 a month and received more than $1.5 million to establish a lab and do research at Wuhan University, according to the U.S. The case marks a high-profile escalation of the Trump administration’s effort to target scholars with ties to China and root out economic espionage in academic institutions.
Bowler gave Lieber five days to post bail. He had offered his home in Lexington, Massachusetts, as collateral for the bond, but the judge said Harvard’s ownership interest in the property “complicates” matters.
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