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.”


UK PM Johnson says groups of 6 people can meet outside from Monday

Updated 28 May 2020

UK PM Johnson says groups of 6 people can meet outside from Monday

  • The prime minister also confirmed that schools will start reopening from Monday, initially for some younger students
  • Outdoor-based shops, such as car showrooms, can also reopen

LONDON: Outdoor gatherings of six people from different households will be allowed from next week as part of another easing of the coronavirus lockdown in England, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday.
But the government's chief scientific adviser cautioned that Britain was at a “fragile" point in its fight against the virus, with some 2,000 new infections still being reported each day.
Johnson, who has faced days of scorn for keeping his top aide Dominic Cummings in post following his controversial travels during the lockdown, said families and friends in groups of up to six can meet from Monday in outdoor spaces, including public parks and private gardens.
Johnson said at a news conference that this was potentially a “long awaited and joyful moment” for parents and grandparents but stressed that people must remain 2 meters (6.5 feet) apart.
The prime minister also confirmed that schools will start reopening from Monday, initially for some younger students. Outdoor-based shops, such as car showrooms, can also reopen.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are also easing lockdowns, in slightly different ways.
Johnson said the “limited and cautious” changes were possible because five government-imposed tests have been met. These include “sustained and consistent” falls in virus infections and the daily death rate.
Though the number of people dying after testing positive for COVID-19 has fallen since the peak in early April. The UK still recorded another 377 deaths in all settings including hospitals and care homes, taking the total to 37,837.
“This is not a time to say ‘Everything’s OK, we’re relaxing measures, everything’s going to be rosy," said the government's chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance. "We are at a fragile state.”
Johnson continued to brush aside questions about Cummings, and said that the issue was now closed after police will not take any action on the matter
Johnson has been urged to sack Cummings by political opponents as well as a number of his own Conservative lawmakers after his adviser drove 250 miles (400 km) to his parents’ house in Durham, northeast England, at the end of March while the country was under a “stay-at-home” order. Cummings made a later journey to a scenic town 30 miles (50 km) away.
Following an investigation, Durham Constabulary said the drive to Durham did not breach the rules but the second trip, to the town of Barnard Castle, might have been “a minor breach” of lockdown rules “that would have warranted police intervention." But the force said “there is no intention to take retrospective action" because no one else has been fined retrospectively.