U.S. announces fraud charges against Meng Wanzhou, Huawei
Published Monday, January 28, 2019 1:42PM PST
Last Updated Monday, January 28, 2019 6:44PM PST
The United States Department of Justice has announced a slew of charges—ranging from fraud to stealing technology—against Chinese tech giant Huawei, executive Meng Wanzhou and two of its subsidiaries.
The first, 13-count indictment includes charges of bank fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to obstruct justice and violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.
"The criminal activity alleged in this indictment goes back 10 years and goes all the way back to the top of the company," Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker told reporters Monday.
In a statement, the department claims Meng and other employees "lied about Huawei’s relationship to a company in Iran called Skycom, falsely asserting it was not an affiliate of Huawei," in an alleged attempt to circumvent American sanctions against Iran.
“As charged in the indictment, Huawei and its Chief Financial Officer broke U.S. law and have engaged in a fraudulent financial scheme that is detrimental to the security of the United States,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.
“They willfully conducted millions of dollars in transactions that were in direct violation of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, and such behaviour will not be tolerated.”
Huawei accused of trying to steal trade secrets
A separate case filed in Washington state accuses Huawei of trying to steal technology and trade secrets from U.S.-based T-Mobile.
The department alleged that in 2012, "Huawei began a concerted effort to steal information on a T-Mobile phone-testing robot dubbed 'Tappy,'" including violating non-disclosure agreements between the two companies by taking photos, measurements and even stealing a piece of the equipment.
According to Whitaker, the department is actively seeking Meng's extradition. The Huawei CFO was arrested in Vancouver back on Dec. 1. She remains under house arrest at one of the properties she owns in the city and is subject to 24-hour surveillance.
"We are deeply grateful to the government of Canada for its assistance and its steadfast commitment to the rule of law," Whitaker said.
None of the charges against Meng or the any of the companies mentioned in the indictment have been proven in court—a point Whitaker emphasized on Monday.
"I want to repeat that these charges and today's indictments are only allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty," he said.
A former Canadian ambassador to China said the newly announced charges work to add legitimacy to Meng's detention in B.C.
"I think those are very serious charges," Guy Saint-Jacques told CTV News. "I'm glad in a way that they did that, because it confirms that they have a very serious case against Ms. Meng."
Arrest leads to international tensions
The indictment comes as a team of U.S. economic advisors prepare to meet Chinese officials for trade talks later this week.
“To be clear, these indictments are law enforcement actions and are wholly separate from our trade negotiations with China," U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Monday.
Meng's arrest has also been the root of escalating tensions between Canada and China that has seen several Canadians detained.
John McCallum was fired from his role as Canada's ambassador to China over the weekend after he weighed in on the high-stakes extradition case with comments, publicly expressing confidence in Meng's case against extradition to the U.S.
The longtime Liberal MP apologized for his initial comments, but later seemed to reiterate the remark by suggesting it would be "good for Canada" if the executive wasn't extradited.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland called McCallum's remarks "inconsistent with the Government of Canada."
With files from CTV Vancouver's Emad Agahi and The Canadian Press
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