American case against former DoJ official who is now Huawei’s lead lawyer goes to court
The bitterness between US officials and Huawei continues with the news that the US will try and remove the Chinese firm’s lead lawyer.
In May said Huawei would “vigorously oppose” a sealed motion from US authorities, who are seeking the removal of Huawei’s chief lawyer, James Cole. He was a US deputy attorney general, within the US Justice Department between 2011 and 2015.
Cole is now a partner at law firm Sidley Austin in Washington, and he is leading Huawei’s efforts to counter US allegations of bank fraud and sanctions busting violations.
Cole had entered a not guilty plea on behalf of the company and its US subsidiary in mid March, in a US District Court in Brooklyn.
But now the US case against Cole is going to court itself also in Brooklyn, after Reuters reported that US prosecutors claim that Cole’s prior work as the number two official in the Justice Department created “irresolvable conflicts of interest” that disqualify him as counsel for Huawei in the case.
The US alleges that as deputy attorney general, Cole supervised and participated in aspects of an investigation related to the Huawei case which has not been made public.
“Cole had access to privileged and confidential information, including classified information, that he can use to the government’s detriment here,” prosecutors were quoted as saying in an August filing in US District Court in Brooklyn.
Cole has reportedly claimed he has no recollection of matters referenced as the basis for him to be disqualified from the case, according to another court filing.
And it seems that the general public will not be privvy to certain aspects of the case, as prosecutors will ask to close the courtroom for portions of oral arguments involving classified information.
Huawei, along with its CFO Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested in early December by Canadian authorities, deny US indictments that they broke internationals sanctions against Iran and carried out bank and wire fraud.
Essentially, the United States is accusing both Wanzhou and Huawei of conspiring to defraud HSBC and other banks by misrepresenting Huawei’s relationship with Skycom Tech Co Ltd, an alleged front company that operated in Iran.
Huawei has always said that Skycom was a local business partner, but the US believes it was an unofficial subsidiary used to conceal Huawei’s business in Iran.
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