U.S. Accuses China's Huawei Of Helping Iran Track Protesters

Clay Curtis
February 15, 2020

It charges Huawei with conspiring to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and to steal trade secrets from six USA technology companies to grow its business.

In an incident that drew headlines past year, a Huawei employee in 2012 and 2013 allegedly repeatedly tried to steal technical information about a robot from an unnamed wireless network operator, eventually going as far as making off with the robot's arm.

The U.S. government also indicted Huawei's Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Wanzhou Meng in 2018 when she was extradited from Canada on fraud charges. Huawei pleaded not guilty to the initial charges last March.

The new indictment also alleges the company provided surveillance equipment to Iran that enabled the monitoring of protesters during 2009 anti-government demonstrations in Tehran, and that it sought to hide business that it was doing in North Korea despite economic sanctions there.

The latest indictment, an update of a case first filed past year, accuses Huawei of plotting to steal the trade secrets and intellectual property of rival companies in the U.S.

"Huawei assisted the government of Iran by installing surveillance equipment, including surveillance equipment to monitor, identify, and detain protesters during the anti-government demonstrations of 2009 in Tehran", the prosecutors said in the indictment.

The U.S. case against Huawei closely mirrors the 2017 indictment and $1 billion fine a year later against another Chinese telecom, ZTE Corp. Since the ban, Huawei says it has shifted some of its component buying to companies in other countries and has scrambled to produce more of its own chips and other parts.

As reported by the BBC the USA prosecutors said, "As a outcome of its campaign to steal this technology and intellectual property, Huawei was able to drastically cut its research and development costs and associated delays, giving the company a significant and unfair competitive advantage".

United Kingdom officials have been adamant that they can mitigate the risk from the Chinese firm, and that they flatly disagree with US warnings that any use of Huawei tech exposes a country to digital espionage and other mischief.

Meng is accused of lying to HSBC bank about Huawei's relationship with its Iran-based affiliate Skycom, putting the bank at risk of violating U.S. sanctions against Tehran.

In late 2018, Meng was arrested in a Vancouver airport at the request of the US government.

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Huawei did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

At a 2004 trade show in Chicago, a Huawei employee was found in the middle of the night in the booth of a technology company, "removing the cover from a networking device and taking photographs of the circuitry inside", prosecutors said.

The indictment issued by the DOJ lists many instances in which Huawei allegedly breached United States laws and statutes, according to Tech Crunch.

That includes charges by California-based Cisco - referred to as company one in the indictment - that Huawei misappropriated source code and manuals for its routers.

Prosecutors also said Huawei offered bonuses to staff who obtained "confidential information" from its competitors.

In a statement early Friday, Huawei denied these allegations, stating that they are aimed at killing competition to US companies. As for the racketeering claims, the DOJ relates those to Huawei's supposed efforts to circumvent the Trade Department's trade sanctions on Iran.

On Thursday, Huawei Technologies rejected a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report claiming that the tech giant has a capability to extract data from mobile networks using "backdoors" in their 5G equipment.

Huawei's methods, according to an internal memo cited in the indictment, included continually hiring away employees from the other firm and fomenting "internal turmoil".

The U.S. Commerce Department in May put Huawei on a trade blacklist that restricted U.S. suppliers from selling parts and components to the company.

Another case, involving California-based "company six", alleges a complex scheme by Huawei to obtain a proprietary product that it could then reverse engineer.

Final month, the Trump administration expressed disappointment after the U.Okay. introduced it will enable Huawei to have restricted entry to some British 5G cell networks.

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