United States Levels New Charges Against Huawei

The United States has filed more indictments against Chinese networking giant Huawei Technologies.

It has accused the firm of stealing trade secrets from six American companies and helping the Iranian regime track protesters. It also charged Huawei with violating a racketeering law typically used to combat organised crime, Reuters reported.

Last week US Attorney General William Barr had suggested that the United States and its allies take a ‘controlling stake’ in Ericsson and Nokia to counter Huawei.

New charges

The US alleges that Huawei installed surveillance equipment in Iran that was used to monitor, identify, and detain protesters during the 2009 anti-government demonstrations in Tehran.

Regarding the alleged stealing of trade secrets, the charges are said to relate router source code, cellular antenna technology, and robotics.

Reuters cited the example of Huawei and its subsidiary Futurewei Technologies being accused of misappropriating operating system source code for internet routers, commands used to communicate with the routers, and operating system manuals, from a company in Northern California in the early 2000s.

Futurewei was added as a defendant in the latest indictment.

Huawei then allegedly sold their routers in the United States as lower cost versions of the US company’s products, the indictment says.

Although the American company in question was not identified, it is a matter of record that Cisco Systems sued Huawei in Texas in 2003 over copyright infringement related to its routers.

Huawei is also accused of recruiting staff from other companies, making efforts to get intellectual property from those companies, and using professors at research institutions to obtain technology.

Huawei response

It should be noted that the latest US indictments do not include any new charges against Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested in December 2018 in Canada.

Huawei for its part had in March 2019 pleaded not guilty to the earlier indictment from US authorities, which charged it with bank and wire fraud, violating sanctions against Iran, and obstructing justice.

And the Chinese firm has now responded quickly to the fresh US charges and issued a firm rejection of the allegations.

The indictment is “part of an attempt to irrevocably damage Huawei’s reputation and its business for reasons related to competition rather than law enforcement,” Huawei was quoted by Reuters as saying in a statement.

The Chinese firm also called the racketeering accusation “a contrived repackaging of a handful of civil allegations that are almost 20 years old.”

Blacklist extension

Huawei was placed on a trade blacklist by the United States back in May 2019, after an executive order by President Donald Trump that declared a national security emergency against Chinese firms.

And almost immediately after the President’s executive order, the US Commerce Department added Huawei and 70 affiliates to its so-called Entity List, which banned them from buying parts and components from US companies without US government approval.

That decision made it difficult, if not impossible, for Huawei, to sell some products because of its reliance on US suppliers for essential silicon and other components.

Just days later however the US Commerce Department announced a 90-day delay to the imposition of trade restrictions on Huawei.

And US trade with China and Huawei is still possible as the US has granted extensions to its reprieve that allows American firms to trade with China’s Huawei.

In November for example, the US granted its third such 90-day extension.

And on Thursday this week the US Commerce Department announced it was extending a temporary general license for 45 days allowing US companies to continue doing some business with Huawei.

At the same time, the United States is reportedly weighing new regulations to stop more foreign shipments of products with US technology to Huawei.

And the United States continues to pressure allies not to use Huawei for their 5G networks.

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Tom Jowitt @TJowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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