No, a US Prof Wasn’t Arrested for ‘Selling’ Coronavirus to China

The bulletin is being used out of context to push a conspiracy theory that the novel virus was developed in a lab.

Updated11 Apr 2020, 11:30 AM IST
WebQoof
3 min read

Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam

CLAIM

Since the outbreak of coronavirus in China’s Wuhan, there have been multiple conspiracy theories about how the virus has been created in a lab. Now a forward, accompanied by a video, is being shared on social media to prove that the theory was right.

“Finally FBI arrested a professor from Boston university who was in connection with Chinese university and research lab in Wuhan, and was highly paid by China.......Now it is very close to clear that corona virus is a Bio Attack planned and conducted by China (sic),” the message reads.

The message is being shared with a bulletin of WCVB-TV, which is an ABC-affiliated television station. The Quint received multiple queries to verify this message on its helpline number.

Screenshot of the viral post.
Screenshot of the viral post.
(Source: WhatsApp/The Quint)

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The message is also being shared widely on Facebook. This message identifies the professor as ‘Charles Lieber’.

Click here to visit the <a href="https://www.facebook.com/search/videos/?q=Dr%20%23CharlesLieber%2C%20head%20of%20the%20chemistry%20and%20biology%20department%20at%20%23HarvardUniversity%2C%20USA.%20He%20was%20just%20arrested%20today%20according%20to%20American%20department%20sources.&amp;epa=SERP_TAB">page</a>.
Click here to visit the page.
(Source: Facebook)

We could also find the video being shared on Twitter.

No, a US Prof Wasn’t Arrested for ‘Selling’ Coronavirus to China
(Source: Twitter)

TRUE OR FALSE?

Well, the bulletin is being used out of context to push the conspiracy theory that the novel coronavirus was developed in a lab in Wuhan. The Quint had earlier debunked that to show how there is no scientific evidence that proves that the new virus is a bioweapon.

Secondly, professor Charles Lieber, whose name is mentioned in the viral message, has indeed been arrested but not because he ‘manufactured and sold’ coronavirus to China but because he lied to the US authorities about his involvement with the Chinese government program to recruit scientific talent.

According to the statement available on the website of Department of Justice, Lieber, who was the chair of Harvard’s department of chemistry and chemical biology, became a “strategic scientist” at Wuhan University of Technology (WUT) in 2011 and was a contractual participant in China’s Thousand Talents Plan, which is aimed at recruiting and cultivating high-level scientific talent.

WHAT WE FOUND OUT

The messages on Facebook identified the professor as Charles Lieber and it wasn’t difficult to figure out why the case was given the widespread coverage it was given. We could find the details of this case on The New York Times, ABC, Bloomberg among others. None of these reports aligned with the details given in the viral message.

While they mentioned the arrest, there was no mention of Lieber being involved in ‘manufacturing and selling’ coronavirus to China.

The second thing that we noticed was the logo of WCVB-TV in the video which is being shared with the viral claim.

No, a US Prof Wasn’t Arrested for ‘Selling’ Coronavirus to China
(Source: WCVB-TV)

It must be noted that the bulletin hasn’t been tampered, edited or clipped in any way. The viral message comes with the bulletin, which nowhere mentions that the professor had developed the novel coronavirus.

Further, the article on the website of the channel also mentions the real reason behind the arrest, and this corroborates the information in the other articles mentioned earlier.

Finally, we found a written statement on the website of the Department of Justice, which, too, mentioned that Lieber was arrested for ‘making a materially false, fictitious and fraudulent statement’. It further mentioned his China link and details about the fraud.

Evidently, an unrelated bulletin has been used to claim that Charles Lieber has been arrested for manufacturing coronavirus and selling it to China.

You can read all our fact-checked stories on coronavirus here.

(Not convinced of a post or information you came across online and want it verified? Send us the details on WhatsApp at 9643651818, or e-mail it to us at webqoof@thequint.com and we'll fact-check it for you. You can also read all our fact-checked stories here.)

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Published: 08 Apr 2020, 05:40 AM IST
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