Huawei allegedly targeted in US criminal investigation

17 Jan 2019

Huawei building in Vilnius. Image: erix2005/Depositphotos

In another blow to Huawei, US investigators are reportedly working on a criminal investigation regarding the Chinese company.

Federal prosecutors in the US are reportedly working on a criminal investigation into beleaguered Chinese telecoms firm Huawei. According to The Wall Street Journal, investigators are looking into whether Huawei stole trade secrets from US business partners.

The newspaper reported that civil litigation between Huawei and T-Mobile was one catalyst for the investigation. T-Mobile has accused Huawei of stealing trade secrets, including a robotic device used to test smartphones. The Wall Street Journal claimed the investigation is at “an advanced stage”.

Huawei responds

A spokesperson for the Chinese tech giant stated that the conflict with T-Mobile was settled in 2017. While the company did not comment on the Wall Street Journal report directly, it said: “Huawei and T-Mobile settled their disputes in 2017 following a US jury verdict finding neither damage, unjust enrichment, nor wilful and malicious conduct by Huawei in T-Mobile’s trade secret claim.”

The reports of a criminal investigation come a day after the company founder, Ren Zhengfei, spoke to media outlets and denied allegations that the company is involved in espionage on behalf of the Chinese government.

The founder said he was a supporter of the Communist Party in China, but has never been asked to share “improper information” with the country’s government. When discussing the ongoing trade war between the US and China, Ren added that the company is “like a small sesame seed, stuck in the middle of two great powers”.

Ren’s daughter, Meng Wanzhou, is the company CFO. Late last year she was arrested in Canada on suspicion of helping the company avoid sanctions when doing business with Iran. Since her arrest, two Canadians have been detained in China and a third has been sentenced to death over drugs charges, a move that some say is pressure from the country over Meng’s case.

Huawei building in Vilnius. Image: erix2005/Depositphotos

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects