US federal prosecutors have added new charges against Chinese telecommunications equipment maker Huawei and its US subsidiaries, accusing the company of conspiring to steal trade secrets and conducting business and technology projects in sanctioned countries.

Why it matters: The indictment adds pressure on Huawei from the US, which has been campaigning for its allies to avoid using its equipment on their next-generation 5G networks.

  • The US has long claimed that Huawei equipment could be used to spy on foreign networks. The company has repeatedly denied the accusations.
  • Huawei has been involved in many intellectual property (IP) disputes with US companies, including smartphone brand Motorola, software maker Cisco, and telecommunications company Quintel.

Details: The US prosecutors filed the new indictment Thursday in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, charging the Chinese company with conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), a 1970 federal law that aims to control organized crimes, according to the Department of Justice.

  • The indictment also includes new allegations about the company’s involvement in countries on the US sanctions list such as North Korea and Iran. It says Huawei helped the Iranian government by installing surveillance equipment that it used to identify and monitor protesters during the 2009 Iranian presidential election protests.
  • The technology theft accusations include Huawei’s misappropriation of trade secret information and copyrighted works, such as source code and user manuals for internet routers, antenna technology, and robot-testing technology.
  • Huawei, its American subsidiary Huawei USA, and research arm Futurewei are among the defendants.
  • Huawei said in a statement to TechNode that 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.”
  • “The government will not prevail on its charges, which we will prove to be both unfounded and unfair,” the company said.

Context: Washington placed Huawei on a trade blacklist last year, banning US companies from selling components and technology to the Chinese firm.

  • The company last year sued the US government over a law that prohibits federal agencies from using its equipment.

Wei Sheng

Wei Sheng is a Beijing-based reporter covering hardware, smartphone, and telecommunications, along with regulations and policies related to the China tech scene. Before joining TechNode, he wrote about...

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