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Two more researchers arrested for improper ties to China


By David Schwartz
Published: May 18th, 2020

Two more researchers affiliated with U.S. research institutions have been arrested and charged with wire fraud and other crimes related to improper and unreported ties to the Chinese government. The arrests are just the latest in the federal government’s ongoing crackdown on foreign influence and potential fraud and espionage targeting research institutions across the country.

In one case, a University of Arkansas professor is facing wire fraud charges for failing to disclose “close ties” with the Chinese government. Simon Saw-Teong Ang, 63, of Fayetteville, is accused of failing to disclose ties to China’s government and Chinese companies after applying for and receiving grant money from NASA. 

“These materially false representations to NASA and the University of Arkansas resulted in numerous wires to be sent and received that facilitated Ang’s scheme to defraud,” according to Charlie Robbins with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Arkansas. If convicted, Ang faces a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison. 

The University of Arkansas released the following statement is response to Ang’s arrest: “Simon Ang has been suspended without pay from his responsibilities with the university and the university is actively cooperating with the federal investigation in this matter.”

Ang has been employed by U Arkansas since 1988 and served as director of the High Density Electronics Center (HiDEC). Since 2013, Ang has been either the primary investigator or co-investigator on federally funded grant contracts totaling more than $5 million. 

The criminal complaint shows emails between Ang and another researcher that suggest Ang worked to keep his ties with the Chinese government a secret from the school, implicating China’s “Thousand Talents Program” as behind the scheme to bring foreign research to Chinese universities. 

Almost simultaneously, the FBI arrested Cleveland Clinic Foundation researcher Qing Wang , who they say received more than $3.6 million in grants from the NIH while also collecting money for the same research from the same Chinese government program. Wang, a U.S. citizen,  was charged with wire fraud and making false claims.

“This is not a case of simple omission,” said FBI Cleveland Special Agent in Charge Eric Smith. Rather, the FBI alleges that Wang knowingly withheld information that he was employed and served as Dean of the College of Life Sciences and Technology at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology.

“Dr. Wang deliberately failed to disclose his Chinese grants and foreign positions and even engaged in a pervasive pattern of fraud to avoid criminal culpability,” Smith said. Cleveland Clinic says it is cooperating with federal authorities. Sources: https://www.npr.org/2020/05/14/856540244/former-cleveland-clinic-researcher-allegedly-failed-to-disclose-ties-to-china and https://www.5newsonline.com/article/news/local/ua-professor-chinese-government/527-86c471d0-f69e-4138-8786-a348c29b38df

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