The US Department of Justice has added new criminal charges against Chinese tech giant Huawei and several subsidiaries, accusing the company of a brazen scheme to steal trade secrets from competitors in the US, federal prosecutors announced on Thursday.
The new indictment also alleges that the company provided surveillance equipment to Iran that enabled the monitoring of protesters during 2009 anti-government demonstrations in Tehran, and that it sought to conceal business that it was doing in North Korea, despite economic sanctions.
The company on Thursday evening issued a statement disputing the allegations and calling them “without merit.”
The new allegations came as US President Donald Trump’s administration raises national security concerns about Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer, and aggressively lobbies Western allies to bar the company from wireless, high-speed networks.
The superseding indictment, filed by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, New York, adds to the company’s legal woes in the US.
It adds charges of racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to steal trade secrets to an existing criminal case in New York, where the company already faces charges of lying to banks about deals that breached economic sanctions against Iran.
Federal prosecutors in Seattle have filed a separate trade secrets theft case against the company.
Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou (孟晚舟), the daughter of the company’s founder, has been accused of making false representations to banks about Huawei’s relationship with its Iran-based affiliate.
She was arrested in Vancouver, British Columbia, but has not been extradited to the US.
The latest indictment, an update of a case first filed last year, accuses Huawei of plotting to steal the trade secrets and intellectual property of rival companies in the US.
In some instances, Huawei recruited employees of competitors to steal intellectual property, prosecutors said.
The company also provided incentives to its own employees by offering bonuses to those who brought in the most valuable stolen information, and it used proxies, including professors at research institutions, in the pursuit of inside information, prosecutors said.
The allegedly stolen information included antenna and robot testing technology, as well as user manuals for Internet routers.
One goal of the theft was to allow Huawei to save on research-and-development costs, the department said.
Separately, Huawei won another extension that delays a ban on some US mobile providers buying parts from the Chinese company, the US Department of Commerce said.
The commerce department said in an e-mailed notice that the 45-day extension is needed to give rural telecommunications providers the ability to operate existing networks while they identify alternatives to Huawei equipment.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg