A former Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) scientist has reportedly pleaded guilty to lying about his involvement with China's Thousand Talents Program. Turab Lookman reportedly entered his plea on January 24 during a hearing in Albuquerque after reaching an agreement with the prosecutors. According to international media reports, Lookman was awaiting sentencing, which could include up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The 67-year-old was initially indicted on three counts of making false statements and his attorney had earlier said that prosecutors have failed to prove that Lookman had accessed or downloaded any high-level information before he was fired from the US laboratory in New Mexico. Lookman had been charged Back in May 2019 for lying to LANL counterintelligence about being recruited by the Thousand Talents Program. However, it was later found that Lookman had actually applied for and was eventually asked to participate in the program for monetary compensation.
According to reports, the authorities said that the 67-year-old came under scrutiny after he had told one of his co-workers that he had citizenship in four different countries. Later when he was asked if any foreign national had offered him a job or if he had applied for one, he had falsely answered to all questions.
According to international media reports, Lookman had joined the LANL in 1999. He was also named a Laboratory Fellow in 2017, one of LANL's highest awards for its scientific staff. In total Lookman has received at least two awards for his work. He is also a computational physics expert and also a co-author of two books.
The Thousand Talents was started back in 2008 as an effort to attract successful Chinese people abroad to return home to boost the economy, however, the prosecutors believe that the Chinese program was established by China to recruit people with access to and knowledge of foreign technology and intellectual property. According to reports, the program was also known as one of many of the country's state initiatives aimed at reversing a decades-long China brain drain. In 2018 its was also reportedly emerged that the program had become the subject of US government investigations.