TECH WARS: US Justice Dept. charges Huawei with fraud; Huawei rejects US criminal charges

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Chinese telecoms giant Huawei has denied any wrongdoing after US prosecutors filed a host of criminal charges against the firm.

Huawei has also rejected criminal claims against its chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested in Canada last month.

The charges filed against Huawei in the US include bank fraud, obstruction of justice and theft of technology.

The case could escalate tensions between China and the US.

In a statement, Huawei said it was “disappointed to learn of the charges brought against the company today”.

It said it didn’t commit “any of the asserted violations” and that it “is not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms Meng”.

The statement said the allegations of stealing trade secrets were the subject of a settled civil suit, in which a jury found “neither damages nor wilful and malicious conduct”.

What are the charges?

The indictment, announced on Monday, alleges Huawei misled the US and a global bank about its relationship with two subsidiaries, Huawei Device USA and Skycom Tech, to conduct business with Iran.

Acting US Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (L), Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and FBI Director Christopher Wray

US President Donald Trump’s administration has reinstated all sanctions on Iran removed under a 2015 nuclear deal and recently imposed even stricter measures, hitting oil exports, shipping and banks.

A second case alleges Huawei stole technology from T Mobile used to test smartphone durability, as well as obstructing justice and committing wire fraud.

The T-Mobile tech, known as Tappy, mimicked human fingers to test phones.

In all, the US has laid 23 charges against the company.

“These charges lay bare Huawei’s alleged blatant disregard for the laws of our country and standard global business practices,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Mr Wray said companies like Huawei “pose a dual threat to both our economic and national security”.

What’s the context?

Huawei is one of the largest telecommunications equipment and services providers in the world, recently passing Apple to become the second biggest smartphone maker by volume after Samsung.

But the US and other Western nations have been concerned that the Chinese government could use Huawei’s technology to expand its spying ability, although the firm insists there is no government control.

The arrest of Ms Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, infuriated China.

Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou attends the VTB Capital Investment Forum "Russia Calling!" in Moscow in 2014

She was arrested on 1 December in Canada’s western city of Vancouver at the request of the US.

She was later granted a C$10m (£5.7m; $7.6m) bail by a local court. But she is under surveillance 24 hours a day and must wear an electronic ankle tag.

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