The cloud of suspicion hanging over Huawei is getting larger and darker by the day. The Chinese tech company is now being investigated by federal prosecutors for allegedly stealing trade secrets from its U.S. partners, including T-Mobile, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The new criminal investigation is the direct result of a 2014 civil suit between Huawei and T-Mobile wherein the Chinese company was accused and later found guilty of stealing intellectual property from the nation’s third-largest wireless carrier. At issue was a robotics technology that T-Mobile used to test for quality control issues in smartphones.
Meanwhile, as President Donald Trump considers an executive order that would bar U.S. companies from using equipment made by Huawei, ZTE and other Chinese telecommunications firms, a group of lawmakers have introduced a bill that would ban Chinese telecommunications companies from buying chips and components made in the U.S., Reuters reports.
Earlier this week, Huawei’s reclusive CEO and founder, Ren Zhengfei, spoke with foreign media for the first time since 2015 to vehemently deny charges of espionage that continue to weigh on the 32-year-old company. His gathering with foreign journalists came just days after a sales director for the company was arrested in Poland for allegedly spying on behalf of the Chinese government. The employee was summarily fired before entering a plea.
In early December, Ren’s daughter and Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada upon request from U.S. officials for allegedly using the global banking system to evade U.S. sanctions against Iran. Ren declined to comment in detail about his daughter’s arrest, but made a calculated statement intended to catch the attention of Trump by calling him “a great president.”
Huawei has been inundated with one bad news story after another for the last seven weeks, including two high profile arrests, a federal criminal investigation, a potential executive order banning the sale of its products in the U.S. and a bill in Congress that would block U.S. companies from selling chips or components to Huawei.
“Huawei is effectively an intelligence-gathering arm of the Chinese Communist Party whose founder and CEO was an engineer for the People’s Liberation Army,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a prepared statement. “If Chinese telecom companies like Huawei violate our sanctions or export control laws, they should receive nothing less than the death penalty—which this denial order would provide.”