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US brings criminal charges against China's Huawei, its CFO

US brings criminal charges against China's Huawei, its CFO
Image Credit: Flickr

The US Justice Department has unveiled criminal charges against Chinese tech giant Huawei and its detained Chief Financial Officer, Meng Wanzhou, outlining a decade-long attempt by the company to steal trade secrets, obstruct an investigation and evade economic sanctions on Iran. "Today (Monday) we are announcing that we are bringing criminal charges against telecommunications giant Huawei and its associates for nearly two dozen alleged crimes," Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said in a statement here.

"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," Whitaker said.

A pair of indictments, which were partly unsealed, come amid a broad and aggressive campaign by the US to try to thwart China's biggest telecom equipment maker, The New York Times reported. One indictment accuses Huawei trying for years to steal T-Mobile's proprietary phone testing technology, known as "Tappy". It supplied phones to T-Mobile and had access to some information about Tappy because of that relationship.

But earlier this month, the Chinese firm had said that disputes with T-Mobile were settled in 2017 "following a jury verdict finding neither damage, unjust enrichment nor wilful and malicious conduct for T-Mobile's trade secret claim". The indictment unsealed against Meng, who was arrested in Vancouver last month on US' request, is similar to the charges levelled against her in filings made by federal prosecutors in connection with the bail hearing in Canada.

It claimed that Huawei defrauded four large banks into clearing transactions with Iran in violation of international sanctions through a subsidiary called Skycom. Meng is currently under house arrest at one of two residences that she owns in Vancouver. American officials said on Monday that they will request her extradition before a deadline on Wednesday. The next stage of her case will be decided at the Supreme Court of British Columbia. But the most serious new allegation in the indictment, which could have bearing on Meng's extradition proceeding, is the contention by federal prosecutors that Huawei sought to impede the investigation into the telecom company's attempt to evade economic sanctions on Iran by destroying or concealing evidence.

The indictment said that Huawei moved employees out of the US so they could not be called as witnesses before a grand jury in Brooklyn. The company destroyed evidence in order to hinder the inquiry, according to authorities. Following the unveiling, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray told the media here that Huawei "relied on dishonest business practices that contradict the economic principles that have allowed American companies and the United States to thrive", CNN reported. "The prosperity that drives our economic security is inherently linked to our national security. "And the immense influence that the Chinese government holds over Chinese corporations like Huawei represents a threat to both," Wray said.

Huawei is yet to comment on the charges. The charges come as the two countries seek to end their months-long trade dispute and with China's lead trade negotiator, Liu He, scheduled to meet with US officials in Washington in coming days, reports The Washington Post. Huawei is one of China's "national champions," promoted by the ruling Communist Party. The arrest of Meng, the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, sparked outrage in China, which called for her immediate release and condemned the move as a US-led effort to thwart the telecom giant and constrain Beijing's global ambitions.

(With inputs from agencies.)

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