By ERIC TUCKER, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department has added new criminal charges against Chinese tech giant Huawei and several subsidiaries, accusing the company in a brazen scheme to steal trade secrets from competitors in America, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.
The company also provided surveillance equipment to Iran that enabled the monitoring of protesters during 2009 anti-government demonstrations in Tehran, according to the indictment, and also sought to conceal business that it was doing in North Korea despite economic sanctions there.
The company issued a statement Thursday evening disputing the allegations and calling them “without merit.”
The new allegations come as the Trump 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, brought by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, adds to the company’s legal woes in the U.S. It adds charges of racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to steal trade secrets to an existing criminal case in that district, where the company already faces charges of lying to banks about deals that violated economic sanctions against Iran.
Federal prosecutors in Seattle have brought a separate trade secrets theft case against the company, while Meng Wanzhou, a senior Huawei executive and the daughter of the company’s founder, is accused of making false representations to banks about Huawei’s relationship with its Iran-based affiliate. She was arrested in Vancouver , British Columbia, and has yet to be extradited to the U.S.
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 U.S.
In some instances, prosecutors said, Huawei recruited former employees of rival companies in an effort to gain access to their intellectual property. The company also provided incentives to its own employees to steal from competitors by offering bonuses to those who brought in the most valuable stolen information, and it used proxies — including professors at research institutions — to steal intellectual property, prosecutors said.
The stolen information including antenna and robot testing technology as well as user manuals for internet routers. One goal of the theft, the Justice Department said, was to allow Huawei to save on research and development costs.
In May 2013, according to the indictment, a Huawei employee who accessed the laboratory of a company in Washington state removed a robot arm in a laptop bag. An engineer took photographs and measurements of the arm and shared them with people at Huawei before it was ultimately returned to the company, the indictment said.
At a 2004 trade show in Chicago, a Huawei employee was found in the middle of the night in the booth of a technology company, “removing the cover from a networking device and taking photographs of the circuitry inside,” prosecutors said. The employee wore a badge that listed his employer as “Weihua,” or Huawei spelled with its syllables reversed.
In another episode, a professor at a Chinese university entered into a contract with Huawei to develop prototype software for memory hardware, then signed a licensing agreement with a rival company that offered the professor access to its own proprietary technology, according to the indictment. The professor didn’t disclose his relationship with Huawei, prosecutors said.
The indictment also lays out steps that the company to conceal its business dealings with Iran and North Korea, referring to both countries in internal documents by their code names.
In a statement, Huawei called the new indictment “part of the Justice Department’s attempt to irrevocably damage Huawei’s reputation and its business for reasons related to competition rather than law enforcement.”
“These new charges are without merit and are based largely on recycled civil disputes from last 20 years that have been previously settled, litigated and in some cases, rejected by federal judges and juries,” it said. “The government will not prevail on its charges, which we will prove to be both unfounded and unfair.”
Trump administration officials, including Cabinet secretaries, have recently leveled national security allegations against Huawei in an effort to encourage European nations to ban the gear from next-generation cellular networks.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper made the pitch to Western allies during a trip to Munich this week. Attorney General William Barr, in a speech last week, lamented what he said was China’s aspiration for economic dominance and proposed that the U.S. invest in Western competitors of Huawei.
The administration’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, asserted this week that Huawei can secretly tap into communications through the networking equipment it sells globally. The company disputes that, saying it “has never and will never covertly access telecom networks, nor do we have the capability to do so.”
Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP
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Defensive minds convening upon Georgia Tech for ‘summit’
In the search for improved schemes and tactics, Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins will bring together defensive coaches from several teams, including the Falcons, to present and trade ideas Wednesday at Tech.
The practice of bringing together coaching staffs from multiple schools to talk strategy is common in the offseason. Collins held a similar “summit,” as he called it, when he was at Temple.
“It’s really, really good, because you get to sit in a room with a bunch of other guys that have different takes on different things and you sit there (and say), ‘Here’s what we’re seeing in our league. Do y’all see it?’” Collins told the AJC. “’What’s some good things that you do with it?’ So it’s a good sharing of ideas, and it’s really good for the young coaches on the staff.”
Besides the Falcons, Collins said that defensive coaching staffs from Texas, South Carolina, Indiana, Georgia Southern, Navy, Central Michigan and Jacksonville State will attend. A notable name on the guest list among college coaches is new Texas defensive coordinator Chris Ash. Before his three-plus seasons as Rutgers’ head coach, Ash was co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State, where he helped the Buckeyes win the 2015 national championship and led a defense that finished second nationally in scoring defense the following season.
Collins said that defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker will give a presentation, and new Falcons defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi likely will present, as well. Lupoi came to the Falcons from the Cleveland Browns, where he held the same title, and before that was defensive coordinator at Alabama.
Tech can use ideas. While the Temple ranked among the top units in the American Athletic Conference in Collins’ two seasons with the Owls, the Jackets were among the weakest in the ACC last season.
“I think we’ve done a really good job playing some high-level defense over the years and kind of have a good reputation, and some really good programs are coming to share ideas with us,” Collins said. “I think it’s really good.”
Collins did not fail to mention that breakfast would be provided by a Waffle House food truck.
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White House readying new limits on tech exports to counter China
The White House is reportedly planning new limits on technology exports in an effort to counter China’s reverse-engineering of U.S. technology, though President Trump on Tuesday appeared to dispute a report that his administration was blocking aircraft engines going to China.
The Commerce Department is planning five regulations covering items like quantum computing and 3D printing technologies, Reuters reported Tuesday. The rules were mandated by a 2018 law meant to prevent the theft or loss of U.S. technology. Trade groups have been concerned that the White House would create tough regulations, but internal documents suggest the regulations will be limited in scope.
The administration is mulling blocking an export license for aircraft engine parts made by U.S. company General Electric intended for planes being built in China, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the discussion. China intends to use the engines in the creation of a new generation of passenger jets. Blocking the license could cripple the project.
Trump appeared to dispute the aircraft parts report in a Tweet on Tuesday, stating that he wanted China to buy the parts. “We don’t want to make it impossible to do business with us. That will only mean that orders will go to someplace else. As an example, I want China to buy our jet engines, the best in the World.”
In a follow-up tweet, he said, “I want to make it EASY to do business with the United States, not difficult. Everyone in my Administration is being so instructed, with no excuses.”
The White House referred questions on the reports to the Commerce Department, which had not responded as of press time.
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