United States unseals charges against Huawei and its CFO

The United States is charging Huawei with conspiracy, fraud, obstruction of justice, and IP theft.

Authorities in the United States have unsealed a pair of indictments against Huawei. The first being a 13-count indictment against the company and its CFO Meng Wanzhou, and the second is a 10-count indictment alleging the company conspired to steal intellectual property from T-Mobile and subsequently obstructed justice.

The Department of Justice in a statement relating to the second indictment said the alleged behaviour happened between 2012 and 2014, and that Huawei allegedly offered bonuses to employees for stealing information, before clarifying for its US employees that such behaviour would be illegal.

"The charges unsealed today clearly allege that Huawei intentionally conspired to steal the intellectual property of an American company in an attempt to undermine the free and fair global marketplace," FBI Director Christopher Wray said.

Must read: Huawei denies allegations contained in US Department of Justice indictments

"To the detriment of American ingenuity, Huawei continually disregarded the laws of the United States in the hopes of gaining an unfair economic advantage. As the volume of these charges prove, the FBI will not tolerate corrupt businesses that violate the laws that allow American companies and the United States to thrive."

The United States is alleging that Huawei stole information on a T-Mobile phone-testing robot called Tappy in order to build its own, which included photographing and measuring Tappy, as well as physically stealing a part from it.

"After T-Mobile discovered and interrupted these criminal activities, and then threatened to sue, Huawei produced a report falsely claiming that the theft was the work of rogue actors within the company and not a concerted effort by Huawei corporate entities in the United States and China," the Department of Justice said.

Also see: Huawei sacks employee arrested in Poland as Warsaw mulls EU ban

"As emails obtained in the course of the investigation reveal, the conspiracy to steal secrets from T-Mobile was a company-wide effort involving many engineers and employees within the two charged companies [Huawei and Huawei USA]."

The first indictment relates to the relationship between Huawei and its Iranian-affliate Skycom.

"Huawei employees allegedly told banking partners that Huawei had sold its ownership in Skycom, but these claims were false," United States acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said in a press conference on Monday.

"In reality, Huawei had sold Skycom to itself."

Whitaker alleges the company used the false sale to claim it was in compliance with US sanctions on Iran, and hence banks working with the company also violated the sanctions. The acting Attorney-General also alleges Huawei lied to the US government and attempted to obstruct justice by concealing and destroying evidence, and moving potential government witnesses back to China.

Read: Bipartisan Bill introduced to ban sale of US tech to Huawei and ZTE

Related to this indictment, the US is seeking the extradition of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou from Canada, where she is currently released on bail in Vancouver, awaiting a hearing on February 6.

In December, Huawei Chairman Ken Hu said any evidence against the company should be revealed. "If you have proof and evidence, it should be made public, maybe not to the general public, not to Huawei," he said. "But at the very least, it should be made known to telecom operators, because it's telecom operators who are going to buy from Huawei."

"When it comes to security allegations, it's best to let the facts speak for themselves. And the fact is: Huawei's record on security is clean," he said.

Earlier this month, Huawei founder and father of Meng, Ren Zhengfei said he would rather shut down his company than damage the interests of customers for its own gain. "Huawei is an independent business organisation. When it comes to cybersecurity and privacy protection, we are committed to siding with our customers … neither Huawei, nor I personally, have ever received any requests from any government to provide improper information," he said.

On Tuesday morning, Australia telco TPG said it was ending its mobile network rollout due to a ban on Huawei 5G equipment handed down by Canberra.

As well as Australia, Huawei's 5G equipment in recent months has also far been banned or limited by the US, and New Zealand, while the UK's BT said it will be stripping Huawei from EE's mobile core.

Updated at 10:16am AEST, January 29, 2019: additional comments added. 

Related Coverage

US intends to formally extradite Huawei CFO from Canada

The US has informed the Canadian government that it will file a formal request to extradite Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou on allegations of violating US sanctions.

Bipartisan Bill introduced to ban sale of US tech to Huawei and ZTE

US lawmakers introduce bipartisan Bill that, if passed, would ban the export of US chips and other components to the two Chinese tech companies.

Huawei looks up to Apple in terms of privacy: Founder Ren Zhengfei

History will judge whether Huawei adhered to its claims to not harm the interests of customers, its founder has said.

Huawei sacks employee arrested in Poland as Warsaw mulls EU ban

Huawei said it has sacked an employee who was arrested in Poland on allegations of spying, saying the incident has brought the company into disrepute.

Huawei sets an all-time high for smartphone shipments, exceeds 200 million units in 2018

Earlier this year, Huawei passed up Apple in worldwide smartphone shipments and market share and is now gunning for Samsung and its top spot. Despite security concerns by a few countries around the world, Huawei continues to set sales records.