[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Friday, 12 May 2006, 04:11 GMT 05:11 UK
S Korea scientist on fraud charge
Hwang Woo-suk
Dr Hwang will not be taken into custody yet
The South Korean cloning scientist who faked his stem cell research has been charged with fraud and embezzlement.

Hwang Woo-suk was also charged with using millions of dollars in grants for private purposes, as well as violating laws on bio-ethics.

Earlier this year Dr Hwang's apparently ground-breaking work, such as producing stem cell lines from cloned human embryos, was found to be fake.

Prosecutors said that he would not be taken into custody at present.

Friday's announcement marks a new low in the career of the once-famed South Korean scientific superstar, who was feted by the nation for his claimed breakthroughs in a promising new medical field.

Prosecution official Lee In-kyu announced the indictment against Dr Hwang, as well as charges against five members of his research team, during a nationally televised news conference.

Of the other scientists accused, one was indicted for obstruction of duty, three for fraud and one for violation of bio-ethics laws.

Personalised cures

Dr Hwang made news around the world, and became a national hero, when he claimed in the journal Science to have created a stem cell line from a cloned human embryo.

He then published another paper, saying his team had extracted material from cloned human embryos that identically matched the DNA of 11 patients.

SCANDAL TIMELINE
Feb 2004 Hwang Woo-suk's team declare they have created 30 cloned human embryos and extracted stem cells
May 2005 Team says it has made stem cell lines from skin cells of 11 people
Nov 2005 Hwang apologises for using eggs from his own researchers
15 Dec 2005 A colleague claims stem cell research was faked
23 Dec 2005 Academic panel finds results of May 2005 research were fabricated
10 Jan 2006 Panel finds 2004 work was also faked
20 March 2006 Hwang sacked from SNU
12 May 2006 Charged with fraud and embezzlement

This research appeared to bring researchers closer to the point where they could offer personalised cures, using tissue grown from embryonic stem cells to repair damaged organs or treat diseases like Alzheimer's.

But Dr Hwang suffered a spectacular fall from grace when he was found to have faked key points in both research papers.

A Seoul National University panel found in December that the research was "intentionally fabricated", and Dr Hwang stepped down from his post as professor at the university shortly afterwards.

Prosecutors have been investigating Dr Hwang's team ever since. In their statement on Friday, they said their probe confirmed that the scientists' claims regarding stem cells were fraudulent.

They said Dr Hwang had himself been cheated by one of his assistants who claimed to have cloned embryonic cells, but that he then compounded the fraud by fabricating further research.

He is also accused of embezzling research money.

At the end of last year, he had received 41.7bn won ($42.2m) in government funds for his research, as well as 4.3bn won ($4.35m) from private foundations, state auditors said.

But the Board of Audit and Inspection has been unable to account for 2.5 billion won ($2.6m) of that money.

Prosecutors claim he bought a car and paid contributions to politicians and company officials who helped to arrange his grants.

He is also accused of using part of the money to purchase human eggs from donors, which is against South Korean law on bio-ethics.

The misuse of state funds carries a jail term of up to 10 years, while a violation of bio-ethics laws can mean up to three years in prison.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Background to Hwang Woo-suk's case



RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific