Huawei indictments announced

US prosecutors reveal 23 indictments against Huawei

Image credit: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

US prosecutors have formally indicted Huawei. The Chinese telecommunications giant has been accused of 23 crimes, including violating trade sanctions and theft of trade secrets.

Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal revealed that Huawei was formally under criminal investigation in the US, with prosecutors building a case relating to alleged theft of robotic phone-testing technology from US-based T-Mobile.

Now, the Department of Justice has revealed its criminal charges against Shenzhen-based Huawei – the world’s largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer – as well as two of its subsidiaries (Huawei Device USA and Skycom Tech Ltd) and a senior executive. Prosecutors have laid down 23 criminal charges, including violating US sanctions against Iran, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, obstruction of justice, stealing trade secrets from T-Mobile, and misleading four unnamed banks about the company’s dealings with Iran. 13 charges were filed in New York, and a further 10 in Washington.

According to prosecutors, Huawei used a Hong Kong-based shell company (Skycom) in order to sell telecommunications equipment to Iran in illegal dealings. Skycom was established with the primary intent to carry out operations in Iran; US President Donald Trump has reinstated sanctions on Iran that were previously lifted under a nuclear deal sealed during the Obama administration, and recently imposed even stricter measures.

“For years, Chinese firms have broken our export laws and undermined sanctions, often using US financial systems to facilitate their illegal activities. This will end,” said Wilbur Ross, the US Commerce Secretary.

In a news conference, acting attorney general Matt Whitaker commented: “We need more law enforcement co-operation with China. China should be concerned about criminal activities by Chinese companies, and China should take action.”

FBI director Chris Wray added that Huawei had “repeatedly refused to respect US law and standard international business practices” and that companies like Huawei “pose a dual threat to both our economic and national security”.

US prosecutors are attempting to extradite Meng Wanzhou, Huawei CFO and daughter of its founder, who was arrested in Canada in December. Wanzhou has been accused of misleading banks into believing that Skycom was separate from Huawei. Her arrest has led to a rapid and severe deterioration in Canada-China relationships.

In an official statement, Huawei has denied involvement in any of the crimes it is charged with, and states that it was not aware of wrongdoing by Meng.

The indictment has intensified tensions between the US, Canada, and China. The US and China are engaged in a trade war involving hundreds of billions of dollars of tariffs on both sides, while Canada and China’s diplomatic relations have become increasingly strained following Meng’s arrest. On state media, the Foreign Ministry of China has affirmed that it will “firmly defend” its companies against these accusations brought about in an “unreasonable crackdown”, and demanded that Meng’s extradition request is withdrawn.

Huawei has been repeatedly accused by the US and other countries of acting as an earpiece for the Chinese government. Concerns about espionage using Huawei’s telecommunications equipment has led to Japan, Australia, and New Zealand blocking the company from the building of their 5G infrastructure, while in the UK, BT has started removing Huawei equipment from its existing 4G infrastructure.

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