US Pursues Criminal Charges Against Huawei

The Department of Justice has unsealed two separate federal criminal cases against Huawei, accusing the vendor of stealing trade secrets and violating US sanctions.

Phil Harvey, Editor-in-Chief

January 28, 2019

2 Min Read
US Pursues Criminal Charges Against Huawei

The US Justice Department has unsealed documents leveling criminal charges at Huawei, its affiliates and its CFO, Wanzhou Meng, who was arrested in December in Canada.

These criminal charges, detailed in two unsealed indictments this afternoon, mark the latest attempt by the US government to stamp out the Chinese vendor's activities in the US.

In a ten-count indictment today in a district court in Washington State, the government is charging Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd subsidiaries with "theft of trade secrets conspiracy, attempted theft of trade secrets, seven counts of wire fraud, and one count of obstruction of justice."

The indictment was returned by a grand jury on January 16. It lays out a scenario where Huawei tried to steal trade secrets from T-Mobile US Inc. related to a robotic phone testing device called "Tappy." (See T-Mobile Accuses Huawei of Espionage.)

Separately, a 13-count indictment was unsealed in a Brooklyn, NY, federal court against Huawei, two of its affiliates -- Huawei Device USA Inc. and Skycom Tech Co. Ltd. -- as well as Huawei's CFO Meng. In that group of charges, the government, in a statement today, said, "Huawei and its principals repeatedly lied to US government authorities about Huawei's business in Iran."

Huawei operated Skycom to obtain US goods and then allow Huawei to claim ignorance of illegal activity as Skycom was selling gear to Iran in violation of US sanctions, the indictment said. Around July 2007, the FBI met with "the founder of Huawei" and that individual, the indictment states, lied to the FBI about whether Huawei had any direct dealings with any Iranian company or ever violated US export laws.

In 2017, the government said that Huawei attempted to cover its tracks by moving individuals with knowledge of its dealings with Iran to the People's Republic of China (out of US jurisdiction) and the vendor destroyed and concealed evidence of Huawei's Iran-based business.

Both sets of indictments follow a familiar narrative -- Huawei operates with impunity and follows its ambition to keep growing at all costs. When it trips up, gets caught or discovered, it's alleged that the company then goes to great lengths to cover up its actions from authorities.

— Phil Harvey, US Bureau Chief, Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Phil Harvey

Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

Phil Harvey has been a Light Reading writer and editor for more than 18 years combined. He began his second tour as the site's chief editor in April 2020.

His interest in speed and scale means he often covers optical networking and the foundational technologies powering the modern Internet.

Harvey covered networking, Internet infrastructure and dot-com mania in the late 90s for Silicon Valley magazines like UPSIDE and Red Herring before joining Light Reading (for the first time) in late 2000.

After moving to the Republic of Texas, Harvey spent eight years as a contributing tech writer for D CEO magazine, producing columns about tech advances in everything from supercomputing to cellphone recycling.

Harvey is an avid photographer and camera collector – if you accept that compulsive shopping and "collecting" are the same.

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