Huawei units plead not guilty to US trade secret theft

March 01, 2019 09:04
Huawei chief executive Ren Zhengfei has been granting media interviews as part of his company's unprecedented public relations blitz. Photo: Bloomberg

Huawei Device Co. Ltd. and Huawei Device USA Inc. pleaded not guilty to US fraud, trade secrets conspiracy and other charges, and a trial date was set for March 2020, Reuters reports, citing the US Justice Department.

The units of China’s Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. were arraigned in US District Court in Seattle on Thursday, and Chief US District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez set a trial for March 2, 2020.

The two companies were charged in an indictment unsealed last month that they conspired to steal T-Mobile US Inc. trade secrets between 2012 and 2014.

The charges have added to pressure from the US government on Huawei, the world’s biggest telecommunications equipment maker. Washington is trying to prevent American companies from buying Huawei routers and switches and is pressing allies to do the same.

T-Mobile had accused Huawei of stealing technology called “Tappy”, which mimicked human fingers and was used to test smartphones. Huawei has said the two companies settled their disputes in 2017.

Separately, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn have charged Huawei and its affiliates with bank and wire fraud on allegations that they violated sanctions against Iran. An arraignment date is yet to be set.

The United States is also seeking the extradition from Canada of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and the daughter of its founder, after charging her with bank and wire fraud.

A senior US cyber official said on Tuesday that European governments were listening to the US message that Huawei exposes telecommunications networks to security risks.

No evidence of the securities risks have been presented publicly even as scrutiny on Huawei has intensified and the company has denied Beijing could use its technology for spying.

Huawei, meanwhile, ran a full-page ad in major US newspapers urging readers not to believe “everything you hear” about the Chinese firm, as it defends itself against government accusations its equipment can be used to spy.

The company touted its relief efforts in disaster-torn countries like Chile and Indonesia, and its work to connect the underserved around the world.

“Our doors are always open. We would like the US public to get to know us better,” the ad states, noting that the US government has “developed some misunderstandings about us”.

The advertisement ran in the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Politico, USA Today and the Los Angeles Times, said Huawei spokesman Chase Skinner.

The move is part of an unprecedented public relations blitz, launched last month with a 25-minute interview aired on state-controlled China Central Television with Huawei chief executive Ren Zhengfei. Interviews on the UK’s BBC and American broadcaster CBS soon followed.

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