DOJ charges Huawei with racketeering, theft of trade secrets



Huawei phones are virtually invisible in the US despite their massive presence around the world.

Angela Lang/CNET

The US Department of Justice is charging Huawei and two of its US subsidiaries with racketeering and conspiracy to steal trade secrets. The new federal indictment, unsealed Thursday, accuses the Chinese telecommunications giant of using “fraud and deception” to steal technology from US companies. 

The indictment builds on charges the US filed against Huawei, the world’s No. 1 telecom supplier and No. 2 phone manufacturer, in January 2019.

The new charges relate to alleged efforts by Huawei and its subsidiaries to steal intellectual property, including from six US companies. The Justice Department said Huawei, through deceptive practices like violating terms of agreements and rewarding employees for turning over confidential information on competitors, managed to obtain nonpublic information related to internet router source code, cellular antenna technology and robotics.  

The indictment also includes new allegations related to Huawei’s business with countries subject to sanctions, including Iran and North Korea. Huawei is accused of assisting the Iranian government, through unofficial subsidiary Skycom, with domestic surveillance. 

Huawei didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The updated charges escalate an already turbulent relationship between Huawei and the US government. The core issue is concerns about Huawei’s coziness with the Chinese government and fears that its equipment could be used to spy on other countries and companies. Last year, the Commerce Department blacklisted Huawei following a May executive order from President Donald Trump that effectively banned the company from US communications networks. 

Earlier this week, Huawei was accused of using backdoors intended for law enforcement to access networks it helped build that are being used by phones around the world. The details were disclosed to the UK and Germany at the end of 2019 after the US had noticed access since 2009 across 4G equipment, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal, citing US officials. 

Huawei has long denied any wrongdoing and continues to maintain its innocence. 

Originally published Feb. 13, 10:44 a.m. PT.
Update, 11:40 a.m.: Adds more background and information. 

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