U.S. Dismisses Criminal Charges Against MIT Professor Accused of Hiding China Ties

Aruna Viswanatha:

Federal prosecutors dropped criminal charges against a Massachusetts Institute of Technology mechanical engineering professor accused of hiding his China ties, saying in a Thursday filing that the government no longer believed it could prove its case at trial.

Gang Chen was arrested last January on charges of concealing posts he held in China in a grant application he had made to the U.S. Department of Energy in 2017. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that prosecutors had recommended that the Justice Department drop the case, based in part on witness testimony that investigators obtained since his arrest, citing people familiar with the matter.

One of those people included an Energy Department official who told prosecutors in recent weeks that the agency didn’t believe Mr. Chen had an obligation to disclose the posts at the time, and didn’t believe the department would have withheld the grant if officials had known about them. The Energy Department in 2017 started asking researchers for more information about their foreign connections.

“As a result of our continued investigation, the government obtained additional information bearing on the materiality of the defendant’s alleged omissions,” prosecutors wrote. “Having assessed the evidence as a whole in light of that information, the government can no longer meet its burden of proof at trial.”

The judge overseeing the case, U.S. District Judge Patti Saris, signed off on the dismissal, but could ask the government for more information about its decision.