US brings new charges against Chinese tech giant Huawei

The Justice Department has added new criminal charges against Chinese tech giant Huawei and two of its United States subsidiaries, accusing the company in a plot to steal trade secrets. (AP)
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Updated 14 February 2020

US brings new charges against Chinese tech giant Huawei

  • The company issued a statement Thursday evening disputing the allegations and calling them “without merit”
  • The new allegations come as the Trump administration raises national security concerns about Huawei

WASHINGTON: The Justice Department has added new criminal charges against Chinese tech giant Huawei and several subsidiaries, accusing the company of a brazen scheme to steal trade secrets from competitors in America, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.

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 conceal business that it was doing in North Korea despite economic sanctions there.

The company issued a statement Thursday evening disputing the allegations and calling them “without merit.”

The new allegations come as the Trump administration raises national security concerns about Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer, and aggressively lobbies Western allies to bar the company from wireless, high-speed networks.

The superseding indictment, brought by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, adds to the company’s legal woes in the US It adds charges of racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to steal trade secrets to an existing criminal case in New York, where the company already faces charges of lying to banks about deals that violated economic sanctions against Iran.

Federal prosecutors in Seattle have brought a separate trade secrets theft case against the company. Meng Wanzhou, a senior Huawei executive and the daughter of the company’s founder, is accused of making false representations to banks about Huawei’s relationship with its Iran-based affiliate. She was arrested in
Vancouver, British Columbia, and has yet to be extradited to the US.

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

In some instances, prosecutors said, Huawei recruited employees of competitors to steal intellectual property. The company also provided incentives to its own employees by offering bonuses to those who brought in the most valuable stolen information, and it used proxies, including professors at research institutions, in the pursuit of inside information, prosecutors said.

The stolen information included antenna and robot testing technology as well as user manuals for Internet routers. One goal of the theft, the Justice Department said, was to allow Huawei to save on research and development costs. The indictment details efforts to steal from a half dozen companies.

In one May 2013 episode, according to the indictment, a Huawei engineer removed a robot arm from the laboratory of a rival company based in Washington state, stashing the item in a laptop bag. The engineer emailed photographs and measurements of the arm to others at Huawei before the arm was returned to the company, which had discovered the theft.

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 employee wore a badge that listed his employer as “Weihua,” or Huawei spelled with its syllables reversed.

The indictment also lays out steps that the company to conceal its business dealings with Iran and North Korea, including by referring to both countries in internal documents by their code names.

In a statement, Huawei called the new indictment “part of the Justice Department’s attempt to irrevocably damage Huawei’s reputation and its business for reasons related to competition rather than law enforcement.”

“These new charges are without merit and are based largely on recycled civil disputes from last 20 years that have been previously settled, litigated and in some cases, rejected by federal judges and juries,” it said. “The government will not prevail on its charges, which we will prove to be both unfounded and unfair.”

Trump administration officials, including Cabinet secretaries, have recently leveled national security allegations against Huawei in an effort to encourage European nations to ban the gear from next-generation cellular networks.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper made the pitch to Western allies during a trip to Munich this week. Attorney General William Barr, in a speech last week, lamented what he said was China’s aspiration for economic dominance and proposed that the US invest in Western competitors of Huawei.

The administration’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, asserted this week that Huawei can secretly tap into communications through the networking equipment it sells globally. The company disputes that, saying it “has never and will never covertly access telecom networks, nor do we have the capability to do so.”


Eternal City Rome looks for return of good fortune to Trevi Fountain

Updated 33 min 19 sec ago

Eternal City Rome looks for return of good fortune to Trevi Fountain

  • The coronavirus stopped tradition of throwing coins into the fountain
  • Used to raise nearly $1.7 million every year for charities

ROME: Many visitors to Rome will have tossed a coin over their shoulder into the Trevi Fountain, as legend has it that this means one day they will return to the Eternal City — and find love and good fortune.

Thousands of visitors used to do that every day and night at this 17th-century masterpiece, one of the best-known landmarks in Rome alongside the Colosseum and St. Peter’s Basilica.

The coronavirus stopped that, nobody knows for how long. And that is at the expense of the poor in Rome who were receiving that money — nearly $1.7 million every year — through a charity that helps the many homeless and vulnerable in the city.

The tradition of tossing coins into this magnificent white marble fountain, designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and set like a precious gem between the palaces of the city center, gained worldwide popularity after the release of the 1954 romantic comedy “Three Coins in the Fountain.”

But the tradition started long before the popular American film was made. Originally, it was said that a thirst-quenching glass of water from the Trevi Fountain would ensure good fortune and a quick return to the Eternal City.

According to legend, tossing one coin into the Trevi Fountain means that you will return to Rome; tossing two coins means you’ll return and fall in love. And tossing three coins means you’ll return, find love and marry.

Luck or no luck, the money tourists throw into the fountain all goes to a good cause. It is collected every Monday from the monument during the cleaning of the fountain and then given to Caritas, a Catholic charity, which uses it to support soup kitchens, shelters and any other efforts that help Rome’s poverty-stricken communities, which are mostly composed of immigrants.

The national lockdown declared by the national government against the coronavirus infection stopped tourists visiting Rome.

As a result, in the past 20 days Caritas has lost nearly €190,000 ($210,000) from the “treasure” that is usually obtained from the Trevi Fountain.

“That money is gone with the tourists. And right now it would have been more useful than ever as poverty increases,” said Don Benoni Ambarus, the director of Caritas.

This is one of the many side-effects of the pandemic. If it continues like this until December, there could be more than €1 million less available for the charity. “Ours is not an alarm as at the moment there are many worse dramatic situations to face, but we have to think about it. For the moment we are holding on, compensating the loss from the Trevi Fountain with a fundraising campaign we launched a few days ago,” the priest told Arab News.

The poor people of Rome need the coins from the Trevi Fountain.

Revenue from the fountain funds five “emporiums of solidarity” — supermarkets in  districts of the city allowing about 2,000 of the most needy families to shop for free.

The coins fund a hostel offering 60 beds and 180 meals a day to the homeless. They also fund the repatriation of the bodies of migrants, and expenses for those who cannot afford funerals.

“Now we are stuck,” the priest said. “Our hope is that the fountain will once again be full of coins soon. Not only because poor people need those coins but also because having the tourists able to throw coins again would be a gesture of normality, that would mean that this city is back to its normal life.”

Across the nation, the government is concerned about the effects that the coronavirus may have on levels of poverty and social unrest for those who cannot make enough money to buy food at the supermarket.

Due to the lockdown to contain the infection and the shutdown of non-essential factories and businesses, many Italian citizens have seen a sharp decrease in their incomes. Although soup kitchens and shelters in Rome remain open, the informal systems of support, such as spare change dropped in a cup or supplying a free breakfast pastry, no longer exist.

The closure of bars and restaurants has cut off access to washrooms. Major problems are expected, especially in the south of Italy where the informal economy plays a large role and income has historically been lower.

After an alarming report from the Italian agency for homeland security warning of the “concrete possibility” of people breaking into shops and supermarkets to get food, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced that mayors will soon be able to issue vouchers for food shopping to help low-income people cope with the economic consequences of the coronavirus.

Using an initial €400 million fund, and with an advance payment of €4.3 billion, the central government wants to help the poorest sections of Italian society. Local municipalities will have to use this fund to buy food, medicines and other essential goods for citizens with low incomes.

When it happens, the return of tourists, and coins, to the Trevi Fountain will be a welcome sign that the fortunes of the needy in Rome and Italy are looking up.