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Research cloning scandal grows to include fraud, kickbacks, and bribes

Genetic Crossroads
February 23rd, 2006

South Korean auditors and prosecutors are pursuing their investigations of disgraced cloning scientist Hwang Woo-Suk and his colleagues. Officials have previously identified a string of fabricated and falsified research claims, grossly unethical conduct in obtaining women's eggs, lies, and attempted cover-ups. They are now unraveling a tangle of financial misappropriations.

According to a report by government auditors, Hwang has failed to account for $6.4 million of government and private research funds, and has admitted that he gave some of the money to politicians. Investigators have found that Hwang handed out money, sometimes in cash, to government officials who funded his cloning research, to US collaborator Gerald Schatten, and to other members of his research team.

News accounts have used the terms "fraud" and "embezzlement" to describe these payments. Some appear to have been kickbacks for government funding and support. Others have the earmarks of bribes to buy the silence of those who knew of the fabrications and other misconduct.

No criminal charges have yet been brought. Hwang and six members of his research team have been temporarily barred from teaching or research work at Seoul National University.

Op-ed by CGS:

Opinion: Jesse Reynolds, "Learning from stem cell stumbles," San Diego Union Tribune (January 27). "Many commentators initially downplayed the relevance of the scandal, framing it as a single rotten apple in a distant foreign barrel. But that's not the case. The stem cell research atmospheres in South Korea and America-especially California-are quite similar. There's nothing that happened there that can't happen here."

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