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Federal Prosecutors Pursue Professors Over China Ties

May 13, 2020
 
 

Federal prosecutors announced a new case against a professor accused of hiding ties to China and reported a guilty plea in a second, similar case this week.

An electrical engineering professor at the University of Arkansas, Simon Saw-Teong Ang, faces a charge of wire fraud for allegedly failing to disclose his ties with the Chinese government and Chinese companies in applying for grant funding from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison. Ang's attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

The U.S. Department of Justice also announced the sentencing of Xiao-Jiang Li, a former professor at Emory University School of Medicine accused of failing to report income he earned from Chinese universities on his tax returns.

According to court documents, Li joined the Thousand Talents Program, a Chinese government-sponsored talent recruitment program, in 2011, and subsequently received salaries from two Chinese institutions, first the Chinese Academy of Sciences and then Jinan University. The government says he earned at least $500,000 in foreign income that he never reported on his tax returns.

Li pleaded guilty to one count of tax fraud; he was sentenced to a year’s probation on a felony charge and required to make restitution in the amount of $35,089.

In a memo to the court, Li said he "deeply regrets" the failure to report the income he earned from working part-time in China. The memo describes his "groundbreaking" research on Huntington's disease and says he received strong support from Emory for his Chinese research collaborations.

The memo further states that Li's Chinese income was taxed by China at a rate of 26 percent and that he would have been entitled to a foreign tax credit had he reported the income on his U.S. returns. "Because Dr. Li was taxed in the United States at a rate of approximately 30 percent -- 4 percent more than he as taxed in China -- this delta (4 percent) is the amount of tax loss Dr. Li's underreporting caused the government," Li's memo states.

The Justice Department said Li’s false income tax returns came to light after the National Institutes of Health reviewed Li’s grant applications and became concerned about a possible failure to report foreign research activity, prompting investigations by Emory and federal law enforcement. Federal prosecutors have pursued charges against a growing number of scientists accused of failing to disclose their ties to China to U.S. government research agencies, most notably the Harvard University chemist Charles Lieber. ​

 

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