Illinois professor convicted of failing to report Chinese bank account

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  • Mingqing Xiao convicted in latest China Initiative trial
  • Judge cleared him of wire fraud charges before jury received case

(Reuters) - An Illinois mathematics professor has been convicted of failing to disclose a foreign bank account but was cleared of concealing his ties to China while seeking federal grant funding in the latest trial to result from a Trump-era crackdown on Chinese influence within U.S. research.

A federal jury in Benton, Illinois, on Wednesday found Southern Illinois University – Carbondale professor Mingqing Xiao guilty on four counts, largely charges that he failed to disclose a Chinese bank account on his 2017 to 2019 tax returns.

But the jury acquitted him of making a false statement in connection with a grant proposal submitted to the National Science Foundation, which in 2019 awarded him $151,099 for his research. U.S. Judge Staci Yandle on Monday found prosecutors failed to prove two related wire fraud charges.

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Xiao, who was born in China, faces sentencing in August. He denies wrongdoing, and defense attorney Patrick Linehan of Steptoe & Johnson said he plans to challenge his conviction post-trial.

"At the end of the day, we think this was a rebuke to the Department of Justice's China Initiative," said Ryan Poscablo, another of Xio's lawyers.

The Justice Department had no comment. SIU Carbondale said Xiao remains on paid administrative leave.

He was one of about two dozen academics charged in the U.S. Department of Justice "China Initiative," which was launched during former President Donald Trump's administration to counter suspected Chinese economic espionage and research theft.

Targets included university researchers accused of concealing ties to China while receiving federal grant money.

A Harvard University professor, Charles Lieber, in December was convicted in Boston of lying about his ties to a China-run recruitment program. He is expected to appeal.

But despite the Harvard win, several other cases have faltered, notably in January when federal prosecutors were forced to drop a high-profile grant fraud case against an Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, Gang Chen.

The Justice Department in February ended the initiative following several failed prosecutions and criticism that it chilled academic research and fueled bias against Asians, though it said it would continue pursuing cases over threats posed by China.

Prosecutors alleged Xiao failed to inform the NSF about another grant he was receiving from the Chinese government or that he was on the payroll of China-based Shenzhen University.

They said he also did not disclose a foreign bank account on his tax returns in 2017 to 2019.

The case is United States v. Xiao, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Illinois, No. 21-cr-40039.

For the United States: Peter Reed, Scott Verseman and Shawn Shugert of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Illinois

For Xiao: Ryan Poscablo and Patrick Linehan of Steptoe & Johnson LLP and Michelle Nasser of Dowd Bennet

Read more:

U.S. Justice Department to end Trump-era program targeting threats posed by China

Harvard professor convicted by U.S. jury of lying about China ties

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Nate Raymond reports on the federal judiciary and litigation. He can be reached at