Huawei sales director arrested in Poland on espionage charges

The detention of a Huawei sales director in Poland on espionage charges is reinforcing concern's about the company's close ties to the Chinese government. (FierceWireless)

A director of sales for Huawei has been arrested in Poland and accused of spying on behalf of China, according to Poland’s secret services. The Chinese technology giant, which is desperately trying to distance itself from reports of espionage and other illicit business practices, swiftly fired Wang Weijing before he entered a plea, Bloomberg reports.

Wang, who was responsible for selling Huawei equipment to public agencies in Poland, was detained along with a former high-ranking official with Poland’s Internal Security Agency for allegedly conducting espionage against Poland. Huawei has denied any involvement with Wang’s alleged activities.

The pair will be placed under arrest for three months and could be jailed for up to 10 years, according to a statement released by Stanislaw Zaryn, spokesperson for the chief of Poland’s secret services.

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Regardless of the outcome with Wang’s detention in Poland, the incident reinforces widening fears about Huawei’s close ties to the Chinese government and deepens skepticism of the company’s operations. The arrest comes a little more than a month after 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.

Earlier this month, Reuters reported President Donald Trump is considering an executive order that would bar U.S. companies from using equipment made by Huawei and ZTE. The latest incident in Poland could also expand Huawei’s problems to Europe, a key market for the company, as more governments scrutinize Huawei’s practices.

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Huawei has repeatedly denied accusations of wrongdoing, but an air of suspicion has followed the company for more than a decade and the latest arrests will bolster its critics. Most attempts to unravel Huawei’s involvement in wireless networks will require a complete dismantling of network infrastructure and likely delay the advancement of wireless services in the countries it serves.

Huawei is playing a leading role in 5G deployments around the globe. At the beginning of the year, the company said it had signed 26 commercial contracts for 5G with global carriers and has already shipped more than 10,000 5G base stations to markets around the world. Huawei has customers in more than 170 countries and was expected to end 2018 with $108.5 billion in total sales, making it the largest Chinese company many times over.