USA investigates Harvard and Yale over foreign funding

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"Unfortunately, the more we dig, the more we find that too many are under-reporting or not reporting at all", she added.

The US Department of Education said the elite schools did not fully report hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign gifts and contracts.

Lieber, 60, was charged with making a false statement to federal authorities about his participation in the communist country's Thousand Talents Plan.

Trump administration officials and a bipartisan group of allies in Congress fear China and other foreign rivals are seeking to use donations or collaborative research to gain access to scientific knowledge that would allow them to achieve national strategic goals and narrow their economic or military gaps with the U.S.

A spokesperson for Harvard confirmed that the university received a notice of investigation.

A Tuesday letter to Harvard, viewed by the Journal, asked the Ivy League school to "disclose records of gifts or contracts involving the governments of China, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran", as well as companies and foundations in China, Russia and Iran. It did, however, cite Harvard's ties to disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein as another example of poor oversight.

In a news release, the department said it had discovered that Yale may have failed to report at least US$375 million in foreign gifts and contracts.

Harvard spokesman Jonathan Swain said the university is reviewing the letter and preparing a response.

The Wall Street Journal first disclosed the Harvard and Yale investigations.

The department described higher-education institutions in the USA, in a document viewed by the Journal, as "multi-billion dollar, multi-national enterprises using opaque foundations, foreign campuses, and other sophisticated legal structures to generate revenue".

United States agencies have been particularly concerned about China. Collectively, the schools received nearly US$1 billion from 2013 to June a year ago.

"Yale takes very seriously the importance of ensuring that funding from foreign sources does not in any way compromise American interests, and it respects the Education Department's requirements about reporting of such funding", Peart said.

Colleges and universities have been left scrambling to address what has become a growing government concern.

The news follows on the heels of investigations into six other universities, including Cornell and MIT, in an effort that the department says has already led to the reporting of $6.5 million in previously undisclosed funding since the beginning of last July.

Department officials accused the schools of actively soliciting money from foreign governments, companies and nationals, who are known to be hostile to the USA and potentially seeking to steal research secrets and 'spread propaganda benefiting foreign governments, ' according to a document reported by the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the probe. In those cases, the money came from Qatar, China, Saudi Arabia, and other countries.

Sens. Rob Portman (R., OH ) and Tom Carper (D., Del.), who lead the Senate panel, said in a joint statement the Journal: "The fact that $6.5 billion in foreign gifts to USA institutions went unreported until now is shocking and unacceptable..."

Portman and Senator Thomas Carper, the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, praised the crackdown on disclosure lapses.

They called the billions of dollars already uncovered in unreported foreign gifts "shocking and unacceptable".

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