A prominent scientist at China Agricultural University in Beijing who once headed the country’s State Key Laboratory of Agrobiotechnology was sentenced to 12 years in jail earlier this month for embezzling over Yuan34 million (£3.8 million) in research funds, according to the South China Morning Post. He is considered a pioneer in transgene biology. In its verdict, a court in the north-eastern Jilin province found Li Ning guilty of illicitly transferring this money to various companies he controlled. Besides the prison sentence, Li was also fined Yuan3 million, and his assistant, Zhang Lei, received a prison sentence of five years and eight months on top of a Yuan200,000 fine for a similar charge, the news outlet says.
Li had argued that he shifted the funds to avoid a funding gap in his lab, since all universities were required at the time to give back any government funding that hadn’t been spent at the end of each year and submit new grant applications every January. That policy was halted shortly before Li’s arrest in 2014.
The imprisonment of Li and Zhang follows a three-year prison sentence handed down to Jiankui He, the Chinese researcher who caused international uproar after announcing in November 2018 that he had created the world’s first gene-edited children. A court in south China found that He and two colleagues knowingly violated the country’s regulations and ethical principles to practice gene-editing in reproductive medicine, and seriously ‘disrupted medical order’ for ‘personal fame and gain’.