U.S. math professor found guilty in latest China Initiative trial

A federal jury in Illinois decided yesterday that an applied math professor at Southern Illinois University (SIU), Carbondale, did not commit grant fraud but is guilty of failing to report a bank account in China on his U.S. tax returns.

U.S. math professor found guilty in latest China Initiative trial

Mingqing Xiao convicted on tax charges, but found not guilty of grant fraud

Read the original article

Mingqing Xiao convicted on tax charges, but found not guilty of grant fraud
Mingqing Xiao before his trial

A federal jury in Illinois decided yesterday that an applied math professor at Southern Illinois University (SIU), Carbondale, did not commit grant fraud but is guilty of failing to report a bank account in China on his U.S. tax returns.

Minqqing Xiao’s was the fourth case to go to a jury resulting from the China Initiative, a controversial U.S. law enforcement campaign that has led to the prosecution of some two dozen U.S. academics, most of them of Chinese ancestry. Launched in 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice recently relabeled the initiative as a “strategy for countering nation-state threat” after concluding that its previous name had had a “chilling effect on U.S.-based scientists of Chinese origin” and “fueled a narrative of intolerance and bias.”

In the three previous jury cases, a federal judge acquitted University of Tennessee, Knoxville, mechanical engineer Anming Hu of all charges after the jury deadlocked; Harvard University biochemist Charles Lieber was convicted of failing to disclose his research ties to China; and University of Kansas, Lawrence, chemist Franklin Tao was convicted on similar charges. None had been charged with any inappropriate sharing of research results with Chinese counterparts.

Xiao, a tenured SIU professor and U.S. citizen, was indicted in April 2021 and charged with three counts of fraud. Prosecutors alleged he lied to the National Science Foundation (NSF) and his university about ties to Shenzhen University and Chinese research funding agencies in connection with a 2019 NSF grant he received. Last fall, the government added four counts of violating tax laws by failing to report to U.S. authorities a Chinese bank account created to support his research collaborations in China.

However, on Monday District Judge Staci Yandle threw out two of the fraud charges. And yesterday the jury took just 3 hours to acquit Xiao on the third fraud count.

At the same time, however, the jury convicted Xiao on the four tax charges. It agreed with the prosecution’s contention that Xiao had failed to disclose the bank account in China on his federal income tax returns and had not filed the necessary documents with the Department of the Treasury. Xiao’s attorneys said they plan to appeal the verdict, which could result in a prison sentence of up to 5 years and a substantial fine.

ADVERTISEMENT

The judge’s decision to dismiss two of the fraud counts, and Xiao’s acquittal on the third, represents “a complete rebuke of the Department of Justice’s China Initiative,” said his lawyers, Ryan Poscablo, Patrick Linehan, and Michelle Nasser, in a statement. “We are thankful that those counts were rejected by the Court and the jury as we believe that they were unjust, improperly motivated, and unsupported by the facts and the law.”

The U.S. attorney’s office that prosecuted the case had no immediate comment on the verdict.

SIU faculty and friends of Xiao had mounted a vigorous show of support throughout the 2-week trial. More than two dozen made the daily trek to the small town of Benton, Illinois, some 55 kilometers from the SIU campus in Carbondale, wearing buttons that proclaimed “I stand with Ming” as they sat in the courtroom.

“It’s a massive victory for Ming,” says Ed Benyas, an SIU music professor who helped organize the daily vigils. “The government was not able to prove that Ming did anything wrong in applying for his federal grant.”

Xiao remains on paid administrative leave from the university, which launched an investigation after his indictment. “Any discipline will be in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement between SIU and the SIU Faculty Association,” says a university spokesperson. “That agreement includes opportunities for Dr. Xiao to respond to any allegations.”

Xiao remains under court supervision prior to his sentencing, which is scheduled for 11 August. He also faces staggering legal fees, Benyas says, noting that a GoFundMe account has raised barely 10% of its $350,000 goal.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.