Huawei hit with intellectual property theft charges

Federal prosecutors have added new charges against Chinese telecom giant Huawei, its U.S. subsidiaries, and its chief financial officer, alleging a “decades-long” effort to steal trade secrets from American companies.

A US indictment unsealed in New York alleges Huawei and its proxies conspired “to misappropriate intellectual property” from six US firms as part of a strategy to grow and become the world’s largest telecom equipment maker.

The company already faced a long list of criminal accusations in the case, which was first filed in August 2018, including bank fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to defraud the United States. Prosecutors filed the expanded indictment in federal court in Brooklyn on Thursday.

Huawei called the latest charges “unfounded and unfair” and predicted the case would be dismissed.

“This new indictment is 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,” the company said.

“The ‘racketeering enterprise’ that the government charged today is nothing more than a contrived repackaging of a handful of civil allegations that are almost 20 years old.”

Huawei, one of the world’s largest tech firms, has been blacklisted by Washington amid concerns over its ties to the Chinese government and intelligence services.

The new 16-count indictment says Huawei employed a “long-running practice of using fraud and deception to misappropriate sophisticated technology from US counterparts,” a Justice Department statement said, without naming the American companies.

“Huawei’s efforts to steal trade secrets and other sophisticated US technology were successful,” according to the statement, which said the company “obtained nonpublic intellectual property relating to internet router source code, cellular antenna technology and robotics” to gain an “unfair competitive advantage” over rivals.

According to the indictment, Huawei entered into confidentiality agreements with US tech firms and then violated those deals.

Huawei is accused of recruiting employees of other companies and “directing them to misappropriate their former employers’ intellectual property.”

The indictment also claims Huawei used “proxies” such as professors working at research institutions to steal trade secrets and “launched a policy instituting a bonus program to reward employees who obtained confidential information from competitors.”

The fresh charges come amid heightened US-China trade tensions and efforts by Washington to keep Huawei from obtaining contracts for 5G, or fifth-generation wireless networks.

According to the 56-page indictment, Huawei is also accused of using its subsidiaries around the world to conceal its dealings with Iran and North Korea, which are subject to US sanctions.

Meng, arrested in late 2018, is under house arrest in Canada pending a ruling on whether she will be extradited to face charges in the United States.

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 US sanctions against Tehran.

Senators Richard Burr and Mark Warner, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, welcomed news of Thursday’s indictment

“The indictment paints a damning portrait of an illegitimate organization that lacks any regard for the law,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement.

“Intellectual property theft, corporate sabotage, and market manipulation are part of Huawei’s core ethos and reflected in every aspect of how it conducts business. It uses these tactics indiscriminately against competitors and collaborators alike.”

The Trump administration has repeatedly made clear it has national security concerns about Huawei, including economic espionage,” NPR’s Ryan Lucas reported. Recently, Trump tried to convince the U.K. not to contract with Huawei to provide equipment to build a 5G network, but British leaders did so anyway.

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