WASHINGTON — The U.S. Justice Department has added new criminal charges against Chinese tech giant Huawei and two of its U.S. subsidiaries, accusing the company in a plot to steal trade secrets from competitors in America, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.
The company is also accused of installing surveillance equipment that enabled Iran to spy on protesters during 2009 anti-government demonstrations in Iran, and of doing business in North Korea despite U.S. sanctions there.
The case comes as the Trump administration is raising national security concerns about Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer, and is lobbying Western allies against including the company in wireless, high-speed networks.
The new indictment brought by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn adds to the legal woes in the U.S. for Huawei, which already faced charges in that district of lying to banks about deals that violated economic sanctions against Iran as well as separate trade secrets theft case in federal court in Seattle.
The latest allegations accuse Huawei of plotting to steal the trade secrets and intellectual property of rival companies in the U.S. In some cases, prosecutors said, Huawei directed and provided incentives its own employees to steal from competitors by offering bonuses to those who brought in the most valuable stolen information.
The company also used proxies, including professors at research institutions, to steal intellectual property, prosecutors said.
The new indictment in Brooklyn includes charges of racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to steal trade secrets.
A lawyer for Huawei did not immediately return an email and phone message seeking comment.
Trump administration officials, including Cabinet secretaries, have recently levelled 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 Defence 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.”