Former Los Alamos physicist gets probation for failing to disclose China ties

Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico

Los Alamos National Laboratory

A former Los Alamos National Laboratory physicist who pled guilty to federal charges of lying about his contact with a talent recruitment program funded by the Chinese government has been sentenced to 5 years of probation and fined $75,000.

In 2018, Turab Lookman, 68, denied to Los Alamos officials that he had “been recruited or applied for a job with the Thousand Talents Program, established by the Chinese government to recruit individuals with access to or knowledge of foreign technology and intellectual property,” according to a Department of Justice statement. But prosecutors alleged that Lookman had, in fact, at least applied to the Chinese program, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

Lookman initially pled not guilty to several charges in May 2019. But in January, he pled guilty to a single count of making a false statement after prosecutors agreed to drop several other charges, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican.

Lookman’s attorney, Paul Linnenburger, told the New Mexican that his client was “satisfied” with the case’s outcome. “It is important to remember that the issue in this case was a failure to disclose a relationship, and the relationship itself was not unlawful,” he said. (Numerous researchers working in the United States have received funding through Thousand Talents and similar programs run by foreign governments.)

Lookman, who was born in India but is now a U.S. citizen, had worked at the laboratory for some 2 decades, and had received awards for his research on materials and computation. His case is one of many in which the U.S. government has moved to criminally prosecute or punish federally funded researchers for failing to fully disclose their ties to foreign institutions.

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