Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE Corp. has pleaded guilty in US federal court for conspiring to violate US sanctions against Iran by illegally shipping US goods and technology to the country.
The guilty plea was part of an agreement the company reached earlier this month with US authorities that also called for nearly US$900 million in fines and other penalties, Reuters reports.
US District Judge Ed Kinkeade accepted the company’s plea to three charges — conspiring to export American-made items to Iran without a license, obstructing justice and making a material false statement.
Shenzhen-based ZTE has a US subsidiary in Richardson, Texas.
A five-year investigation found ZTE conspired to evade US embargoes by buying US components, incorporating them into ZTE equipment and illegally shipping them to Iran.
ZTE, which devised elaborate schemes to hide the illegal activity, agreed to the guilty plea after the US Department of Commerce took action that threatened to cut off the gear maker’s global supply chain.
The investigation followed reports by Reuters in 2012 that ZTE had signed contracts to ship millions of dollars’ worth of hardware and software from some of the best-known US technology companies to Iran’s largest telecoms carrier.
As part of the deal, ZTE will be under probation for three years and agreed to cooperate with authorities in any investigation of the company or third parties. The judge appointed a former Texas judge to monitor ZTE’s compliance.
The company settled with the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Treasury and the Commerce Department in early March.
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