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China irked over US filing bank fraud, obstruction of justice charges against Huawei

China irked over US filing bank fraud, obstruction of justice charges against Huawei
Both Huawei and Meng deny the allegations. The case could ratchet up tensions between Washington and Beijing and impact the firm's global expansion efforts. Image Credit: Wikimedia

The US Justice Department has filed a host of criminal charges, including bank fraud, obstruction of justice and theft of technology against Chinese tech giant Huawei and its detained Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, a move decried by Beijing as "unjustified repression". A 13-count indictment filed on Monday in New York City against Huawei, two affiliates and Meng detailed allegations of bank and wire fraud. The company was also charged with violating Washington's sanctions on Iran and conspiring to obstruct justice related to the investigation, the US media reported.

Both Huawei and Meng deny the allegations. The case could ratchet up tensions between Washington and Beijing and impact the firm's global expansion efforts. "We are announcing that we are bringing criminal charges against Huawei and its associates for nearly two dozen alleged crimes," US acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said in a statement.

"The criminal activity in this indictment goes back 10 years and goes all the way to the top of the company. China must hold its citizens and Chinese companies accountable for complying with the law," he was cited as saying by the New York Times. The Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry said it was very "concerned" about the criminal complaint filed by the US Justice Department against Huawei and Meng who was arrested in Canada on December 1 at the request of the US for allegedly evading sanctions on Iran.

Meng has been since released on bail and her travel is confined to Vancouver and surrounding areas. She could face up to 30 years if found guilty on all counts. On Monday evening, the Canadian Justice Department said it had received a formal request for Meng's extradition to the US to stand trial. The request came even as Beijing pressured Ottawa to release her.

In a statement, Huawei rejected the charges, saying it didn't commit "any of the asserted violations" and that it "was not aware of any wrongdoing by Meng". "The US government and China have an extremely complex, multifaceted relationship. Our client, Sabrina Meng, should not be a pawn or a hostage in this relationship," said Huawei attorney Reid Weingarten.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said: "For some time, the US has used its government power to discredit and crack down on specific Chinese companies in an attempt to stifle their legitimate operations." "We strongly urge the US to stop the unreasonable suppression of Chinese companies, including Huawei, and treat them objectively and fairly," he was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency.

The indictment alleged that Huawei misled the US and a global bank about its relationship with two subsidiaries, Huawei Device USA and Skycom Tech, to conduct business with Iran. US President Donald Trump's administration had reinstated all sanctions on Iran removed under a 2015 nuclear deal and recently imposed even stricter measures, hitting oil exports, shipping and banks.

A second case alleged that Huawei stole technology from T Mobile USA used to test smartphone durability, as well as obstructing justice and committing wire fraud. The T-Mobile tech, known as Tappy, mimicked human fingers to test phones. In all, the US filed 23 charges against the company.

"These charges lay bare Huawei's alleged blatant disregard for the laws of our country and standard global business practices," said Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray. The charges came as the two countries' leaders seek to end their months-long trade dispute, with China's lead trade negotiator, Liu He, scheduled to meet US officials in Washington in coming days.

(With inputs from agencies.)

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