On Monday, a grand jury charged the world’s largest telecom giant with conspiracy to steal trade secrets, attempted theft of trade secrets, obstruction of justice, and 7 counts of wire fraud.
The indictments follow a 2014 T-Mobile civil suit accusing Huawei of stealing trade secrets related to a robotic phone-testing device known as “Tappy.”
The Chinese company denied any wrongdoing and expressed its frustration for not getting the chance to help clear its name of the charges following the arrest of its CFO in Vancouver, B.C.
Sh*t’s gettin’ spicy
At the end of last year, Huawei Technologies CFO (and the company founder’s daughter) Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada, allegedly violating US sanctions on Iran under charges of a “fraudulent financial scheme.” She still faces extradition to the US.
The story less talked about is ‘Tappy’: From 2012 to 2014, T-Mobile partnered with Huawei and gave it partial access to its phone testing robot. But the DoJ alleges Huawei tasked its engineers working with T-Mobile to take photos, measure the robot, and even steal a part.
The US further alleges that, aside from emails that illustrate these actions, Huawei implemented a “bonus program” in 2013 that incentivized employees to steal competitors’ secrets.
Real life? Or John Grisham novel?
The US government has long fought to keep Huawei out of the market, citing in 2005 that “industrial espionage” is part of China’s strategy for technological development.
Since then, US agencies and lawmakers continue to warn that Huawei poses a major security threat (due to alleged ties to the Chinese government).
There’s only one problem: As of now, “substantial evidence” of these emails doesn’t substantially exist.
Conspiracy? Wei hope not.
As TechCrunch reports, some believe the absence of proof points to the fact the US is worried that China’s role in building out 5G infrastructure could promote spying in the future.
Bottom line: Tensions between US and China have spiraled considerably over the last year, and this only lands the rock further down the hill. If found guilty, Huawei could be faced with a fine of up to $5m.