Leading professor hit with claims of embezzlement

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 July, 2011, 12:00am


The prestigious China Academy of Sciences has become embroiled in an embezzlement and adultery scandal that has sparked concerns over the use of scientific research funds.

A geologist in line for a senior position at the academy and accused of misusing research grants to maintain his mistresses was arrested this week on corruption charges, the academy's Institute of Geology and Geophysics has said.

Professor Duan Zhenhao, director of the institute's Laboratory of the Earth's Deep Interior, is reported to have filed for divorce following the allegations, which were posted online by a woman claiming to be Duan's estranged wife.

In blog postings starting late last month, the woman - who only identified herself by a fake name - accused the professor of having kept three mistresses in homes he owned, fathering an illegitimate daughter, having misappropriated research funds and of having sex with one of his students.

In response to the accusations, Duan told mainland media one of the women involved had been hired as a housekeeper, and that rather than having gifted her the apartment in question, he had sold it to her for a low price. He also said he had merely 'donated sperm' to the other two alleged mistresses in 2004, the China Daily reported.

Duan had been listed as a candidate to become a CAS academician this year, a prestigious title in the mainland's scientific community.

The scandal is the latest in a series that has rocked mainland academia and seen it dogged by allegations of widespread plagiarism, corruption and falsification of research findings.

It has sparked a strong public response online, with several commentators questioning how the allocation of research funds is monitored.

Duan's research institute itself has admitted there were 'weaknesses' in its supervision mechanism.

In a statement posted on its website on Thursday, the institute stated that an internal investigation prompted by online reports had found evidence to suggest Duan had fraudulently claimed business travel expenses. The institute said it had placed him under suspicion of corruption.

The Beijing-based institute said it had passed the relevant information on to prosecutors and Duan had already been formally arrested.

The statement did not indicate when police had taken Duan into custody, and it made no mention of the alleged extra-marital activities by Duan.

The note stated the institute rated 'moral conduct' as being equal to academic performance, and that despite the professor's high academic standing and international fame, his 'violation of discipline and immoral behaviour simply cannot be tolerated'.