Hwang charged with fraud, embezzlement

Hwang Woo-suk, the South Korean researcher who admitted fabricating data on human stem cell lines, has been charged with criminal fraud and embezzlement, and now potentially faces years in jail, prosecutors announced Friday (May 12). In a linkurl:statement;http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060512/sc_nm/korea_science_dc;_ylt=AoWnlxWJZt1f3kSQ6kx3JgoPLBIF;_ylu=X3oDMTA5aHJvMDdwBHNlYwN5bmNhdA-- provided to Reuters, prosecutor Lee In-kyu accused Hwang of being the lead actor in an elaborate plot to fabric

By | May 12, 2006

Hwang Woo-suk, the South Korean researcher who admitted fabricating data on human stem cell lines, has been charged with criminal fraud and embezzlement, and now potentially faces years in jail, prosecutors announced Friday (May 12). In a linkurl:statement;http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060512/sc_nm/korea_science_dc;_ylt=AoWnlxWJZt1f3kSQ6kx3JgoPLBIF;_ylu=X3oDMTA5aHJvMDdwBHNlYwN5bmNhdA-- provided to Reuters, prosecutor Lee In-kyu accused Hwang of being the lead actor in an elaborate plot to fabricate research findings, making it appear as if the team had created a number of patient-specific stem cell lines. The researcher has also been charged with misusing and embezzling nearly $3 million in state funds and private donations. According to Reuters, misuse of state funds can put Hwang behind bars for up to 10 years. The fraud portion of the indictment carries a jail term of up to three years. There is no trial date scheduled, Lee told Reuters. The scientific community has been bracing for this announcement for months. Indeed, ever since linkurl:Hwang?s fraud;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/22933/ surfaced, there?s been talk about linkurl:prosecution;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/23105/, and whether indicting Hwang will put other scientists at risk of similar ? but likely lesser ? indictments when accused of misconduct. In our previous coverage, we noted that prosecutors generally don?t pursue criminal cases against scientists accused of misconduct, because the cost of prosecution is so high. However, with up to $3 million at stake in this indictment, South Korean prosecutors likely felt that pressing criminal charges was well worth it. They may also be thinking about the price of national disappointment, given that Hwang single-handedly raised the nation?s hopes, only to have them dashed in an ignominious way. We?ll be following the case in the coming months.

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