A U.S. professor who abruptly resigned from his job and then disappeared was being investigated by the FBI amid suspicions he was sharing defence secrets with the Chinese.

Professor Rongxing Li, 56, attracted international attention for his work with the Mapping and GIS Laboratory at Ohio State University, where he had been employed since 1996.

As a participant in numerous NASA projects, including the 2003 Mars Exploration Rover mission, he had access to restricted information which he was prohibited from sharing with the Chinese.

But according to search warrants, he failed to declare he had numerous connections with Chinese scientists during a January 2014 proposal to NASA, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

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