USA charges Huawei with violating sanctions and stealing trade secrets

Nick Read

China's largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer got hit with criminal charges on Monday in connection to a "long-running" global financial scheme involving the Iranians, bank fraud, corporate espionage - and a robot named "Tappy", according to DOJ officials.

The charges come at a volatile moment for the USA and China, which are still locked in trade tensions.

Skycom is said to be a Huawei affiliate that was doing business in Iran, though the United States government accuses Huawei of covering up this fact with lying and committing bank and wire fraud to cover its tracks. As a result of that claim, it was able to borrow money from US banks. Huawei officials also provided assurances to the US Congress that its business didn't run afoul of any US law pertaining to Iran.

The charges in both cases add to U.S. pressure on Huawei, the world's biggest telecommunications equipment maker. US law prohibits banks operating in the United States from processing dollar transactions related to Iran through the United States.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Monday that Canada's former ambassador to China had been fired because his comments on an extradition case involving Meng made it untenable for him to stay in the job.

At the heart of the case against Huawei is the claim that the company misled regulators about its business dealings with Iran, with Meng allegedly playing a key role in that effort. Huawei and its subsidiary Skycom face charges of bank fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy, as well as of violating the U.S. International Emergency Economic Powers Act - the sanctions law. A grand jury in the Eastern District of NY returned charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice against Huawei and Huawei USA.

Huawei has always been considered a cybersecurity risk by USA authorities.

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A separate case filed in Washington state charges Huawei with stealing trade secrets from T-Mobile.

Rather than being the work of one or two rogue actors, Whitaker said the alleged conduct bore the hallmarks of "corporate-sponsored behaviour" that was directed as company policy.

Prosecutors are seeking Meng's extradition to the U.S. She was arrested in early December by Canadian authorities at the request of the U.S. government.

She was arrested in Vancouver Dec. 1 while en route from Hong Kong to Mexico.

Shortly after, in a move widely seen as retaliation for Meng's arrest, Chinese authorities detained two Canadians, including a former diplomat, on security charges.

The announcement came as US officials are scheduled to meet with representatives of the Chinese government this week to try broker an elusive trade agreement and end the prolonged tariff war between the two economic giants.

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