U.S. Charges Three NYU Researchers In Chinese Bribery Case

May 20, 2013

By Nate Raymond and Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. authorities brought criminal charges against three New York University researchers on Monday, alleging they conspired to take bribes from Chinese medical and research outfits for details about NYU research into magnetic resonance imaging technology.

A criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan charged Yudong Zhu, 44, Xing Yang, 31, and Ye Li, 31, with commercial bribery in connection with NYU research financed by the U.S. government.

Federal prosecutors and the FBI said the three conspired to receive payments from a Chinese medical imaging company, United Imaging Healthcare, and a research institution supported by the Chinese government.

In exchange, prosecutors said, the defendants turned over confidential information about NYU research into MRI technology, which provides detailed views of the human body.

"As alleged, this is a case of inviting and paying for foxes in the henhouse," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. The alleged theft of research "is a serious crime and will not be tolerated by this office."

Prosecutors said Zhu and Yang were arrested at their homes in New York on Sunday, while they said Li is believed to have flown to China before charges were brought.

A lawyer for Zhu declined comment on Monday, while attorneys for the other two defendants could not be reached. A call to United Imaging went unanswered after normal business hours in China.

The case comes amid heightened concern of Chinese theft of U.S. trade secrets.

NYU was not named in the complaint, which says the three individuals worked at a New York-based university research medical center. But a spokeswoman for the university confirmed the three defendants worked at the NYU Langone Medical Center.

"NYULMC is deeply disappointed by the news of the alleged conduct by its employees," Kathy Lewis, a university spokeswoman, said in a statement.

All three individuals have been suspended from NYU, Lewis said. The university is cooperating with the investigation.

Zhu, a Chinese citizen, was an associate professor in radiology at NYU and was hired to teach about innovations in the MRI field in 2008, according to the complaint.

In 2010, he applied for a grant from the National Institutes of Health. After starting research under the multi-million dollar grant, prosecutors said Zhu recruited Yang and Li to work with him.

At that time, Zhu also arranged to receive financial benefits from an unnamed executive with United Imaging Healthcare, the complaint said.

That executive agreed to pay for Yang's graduate school tuition and Li's rental apartment, the complaint said. The executive also agreed to pay for their travel between China and New York, the complaint said.

Prosecutors said Yang also shared research results of his work with individuals at United Imaging.

Zhu, meanwhile, had been working with the United Imaging executive leading a similar MRI research project funded by the Chinese government, the complaint said.

Zhu and the executive were also part of the same research team at the Shenzen Institute of Advanced Technology, a Chinese government-backed research institute, the complaint said.

Published under: China